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At the front lines of Canada’s COVID-19 outbreaks

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Personal support workers, the aides who bathe, dress and feed the elderly and chronically ill, are now on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 in nursing homes, the places that have suffered most as the novel coronavirus has swept across Canada.

“We are in crisis mode,” said Rebecca Piironen, a PSW at Anson Place Care Centre, a retirement and nursing home near Hamilton, where eight residents have died of COVID-19 and several dozen more are infected. “These people are dying, gasping for air.”

PSWs who haven’t fallen ill with COVID-19 themselves are struggling to meet the needs of residents at the hundreds of homes across the country that have recorded at least one case of infection.

Ottawa expands access to wage-subsidy program

The Liberal government is expanding access to its proposed wage-subsidy program for employers and is also putting the finishing touches on a plan to offer small businesses interest-free loans.

The draft bill on wage subsidies addresses business concerns that eligibility was overly restricted in the initial outline of the $71-billion effort to keep employers connected to their work forces during the COVID-19 health crisis.

Government officials are also working with bankers and lawyers to finalize details on an interest-free loan program for small businesses, guaranteed by $25-billion in government funds.

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Made in Canada

Ottawa is also turning to Canadian companies to make as many as 30,000 hospital ventilators as the country’s industrial base retools to focus on building critically needed medical supplies.

Prime Minister Trudeau said 20 companies, including Canada Goose, are also mobilizing to produce medical gowns, in some cases from the same material normally used to produce airbags for vehicles.

Quebec

Quebec is expecting to reach a plateau in COVID-19 hospital admissions around April 18, according to public health projections unveiled yesterday that have sparked hope the province might restart some economic activity next month.

However, those same models offer a grim picture of a mounting death toll that is likely to rise from 150 to at least 1,263 people by the end of the month, in even the most optimistic scenario.

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Alberta

Alberta has decided to broadly expand its testing. As of yesterday, anyone in Alberta aged 65 and older with possible COVID-19 symptoms, such as a fever, cough or shortness of breath, is eligible for testing.

China

April 8 marked what state media called the “unsealing of Wuhan,” a watershed end to a 76-day lockdown. The queues of people looking to leave began before midnight, with 276 passenger trains and 111 flights leaving the city Wednesday. At the stroke of midnight, police rolled away highway barriers, a potent image of the city breaking out of more than two months of medical imprisonment.

How China limited the spread

“Out-of-home quarantine” measures in China helped limit the spread of COVID-19, according to epidemiologists. While Canada’s official advice to those with mild symptoms is to “isolate yourself at home,” in a separate room, Chinese researchers point to centralized quarantine as a key reason Wuhan was able to limit the virus’s spread. Ten days after locking down Wuhan, Chinese authorities forced anyone with a fever into “centralized quarantine,” along with people who had been in close contact with someone believed to be infected. In the weeks that followed, thousands of people were taken from their homes and forcibly placed in hotels, dormitories, convention centres and even converted classrooms at Communist Party schools.

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In the U.S.

U.S. President Donald Trump removed the inspector-general who was to oversee the government’s US$2.3-trillion coronavirus response, fuelling concerns in Congress about how his administration would manage the package.

It was Trump’s most recent manoeuvre to seize control over his administration’s handling of the coronavirus epidemic and attack inspectors-general, the federal watchdogs responsible for safeguarding agencies against waste, fraud and abuse.

In Britain

The Globe’s Mark MacKinnon explored the usually busy streets around St. Thomas’ Hospital, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in intensive care.

John Prine dies from complications of COVID-19

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Make me an angel that flies from Montgom’ry

Make me a poster of an old rodeo

Just give me one thing that I can hold on to

To believe in this living is just a hard way to go

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ALSO ON OUR RADAR

The Canadian Jewish News closes after 60 years

Already struggling financially, the country’s pre-eminent Jewish newspaper, considered to be the voice of Canada’s Jewish community, was ultimately done in by the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The tabloid is to cease print and online operations after publishing its April 9 edition.

Acting U.S. Navy boss submits resignation amid coronavirus uproar

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned yesterday after he had publicly apologized for a profanity-laced upbraiding of the officer he fired as captain of the coronavirus-stricken USS Theodore Roosevelt. Modly had created a controversy by firing the Roosevelt’s skipper, Captain Brett E. Crozier, last week, saying Crozier had shown “extremely poor judgment” in widely e-mailing a letter calling for urgent help with the COVID-19 outbreak aboard his ship.

Refunds row escalates as airlines warn millions of jobs at risk

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) warned that 25 million jobs across the world could be at risk from the air travel downturn, and held out against offering refunds to passengers as cash runs out, saying that providing refunds for cancelled flights, as rules in many parts of the world require them to do, was not possible.

MORNING MARKETS

Global stocks turn negative as virus death toll mounts: World stocks turned negative on Wednesday as the coronavirus death toll mounted and euro zone finance minister failed to agree on a rescue package to help economies recover from the impact of the outbreak. In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 was down 1.6 per cent just before 6 a.m. ET. Germany’s DAX fell 1.12 per cent and France’s CAC 40 lost 1.96 per cent. Asian markets were mixed with Japan’s Nikkei rising 2.13 per cent while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 1.17 per cent. New York futures were little changed. The Canadian dollar was trading at 71.32 US cents.

OPINION

There’s reason for hope in Canada’s coronavirus data

Andrew Coyne: “Should behaviour change as governments would wish, actual outcomes will be less terrifying than the models had originally forecast. This is not evidence that the policy was unnecessary: Rather, it is evidence that it worked.”

Donald Trump has helped unify Canada amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Gary Mason: “The response to the pandemic here has, for the most part, ushered in a most welcome post-partisanship period.”

TODAY’S EDITORIAL CARTOON

By Brian Gable

Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail

LIVING BETTER

Do-it-yourself late-night chat shows separate the gifted from the inept

Now that many late-night hosts are back doing full-length nightly shows, John Doyle surveys the offerings, and finds a couple of stand-outs among the stand-ups.

MOMENT IN TIME

ONE-TIME USE ONLY WITH STORY SLUGGED NW-MIT-CLINT-0407 -- Clint Eastwood proudly holds up a t-shirt proclaiming him as the mayor of Carmel, California, during his acceptance speech on April 9, 1986. Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images

Bettmann / Getty Images

“You’ve gotta ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’” That was Clint Eastwood speaking in the movie Dirty Harry. Eastwood must have felt lucky, because he ran for, and was elected, mayor of the pretty seaside town of Carmel, Calif., (current population 4,000) on this day in 1986. The Hollywood star ran because he had previously had a clash with the town council of Carmel, where he’d lived for 14 years, and wanted change. Carmel, about 130 kilometres south of San Francisco, had never seen such a voter turnout. Eastwood spent US$40,000 on his campaign and received 2,166 votes, compared to the 799 for incumbent Charlotte Townsend, who spent US$3,000. Eastwood, 55 at the time and pulling in US$6-million a movie, attended every bi-weekly council meeting while mayor, and donated his US$200 monthly salary to charity. “There’s plain few problems can’t be solved with a little sweat and hard work,” he said in Pale Rider. He got things done – more public toilets, more stairways leading to the beach and eliminating the town’s ban on selling ice cream. He did not seek re-election in 1988. As he said in Magnum Force, “A good man always knows his limitations.” – Philip King

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