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Coronavirus: What it means for hospitals, schools, the economy and your travels

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B.C. has reported four new cases, while Ontario added two more, bringing Canada’s total to 33. One positive note is that so far all cases have been linked to international travel, though experts say it’s only a matter of time before Canada sees local person-to-person transmission. Go here for our latest updates on the virus.

Have a question about coronavirus? Globe columnist Andre Picard will take reader questions later this week. Send your questions to audience@globeandmail.com

North York General Hospital triage nurse Maritres Calma works the emergency check-in station while wearing protective equipment. (Tijana Martin/ The Globe and Mail)

How hospitals are preparing: Some Canadian facilities are taking strong stands well ahead of official advice from public-health officials in a bid to limit the spread of the virus. Toronto’s North York General Hospital is isolating and testing all patients with a cough or fever who visited Washington State, Germany and France, even though those locations weren’t flagged by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

How schools are preparing: Stocking up on hand sanitizer and wipes, cancelling overseas trips and dropping perfect attendance awards are a few of the measures school boards are preparing. While research shows children generally fare well with coronavirus infections, they are also able to spread the illness to others, making schools a focal point when the disease spreads.

The economic response: The Bank of Canada is expected to cut its key rate today for the first time since 2015. That comes a day after the U.S. Federal Reserve implemented its first emergency rate cut since the 2008 financial crisis, a move designed to quell anxieties that instead led to stock-market losses over concerns the Fed was panicking. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to announce a special committee today focused on the economic and health effects of the virus.

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It’s now a two-person race for the Democratic nomination after Super Tuesday

Joe Biden’s momentum continues to build, as the former vice-president won a throng of southern states thanks to his popularity with black voters, including a narrow win in Texas. Bernie Sanders took California, Colorado, Utah and his home state of Vermont.

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Senator Elizabeth Warren lost her home state of Massachusetts, coming in third after Biden and Sanders. Michael Bloomberg also fell short across the board, failing to win a single state.

We now head into a contest of Biden versus Sanders, a pair of career politicians in their 70s on opposite sides of the Democratic Party’s ideological divide.

Journalist and author Andrew Cohen writes: “the greying of the president will bring new respect to the vice-presidency. It will sharply elevate the office. With the president older than ever before, the VP will be more important than ever before.”

What happens if no candidate wins a majority of delegates: We would see a contested Democratic convention – the first since 1952 – that would give moderate-leaning party officials the chance to vote on a second ballot.

Elected chiefs of Wet’suwet’en Nation are demanding a say in the tentative deal on rights and title

The band council leaders along the Coastal GasLink route – all of whom approved the project – are speaking out over negotiations between hereditary chiefs, Ottawa and B.C. that they say happened without their involvement.

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“We need to be engaged in our feast hall, in our respective communities to ensure all of our clan members are heard and acknowledged,” reads a joint statement from several elected chiefs.

B.C. Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser said he expects the ratification process will include elected and hereditary leaders and the Wet’suwet’en people.

CN, meanwhile, is recalling most of the workers it temporarily laid off when its freight traffic was halted in Eastern Canada.

The blockades have come to represent more than just a tactical manoeuvre. For many of the First Nations stalling traffic, railroads are a symbol of dispossession and colonial control that goes back generations – to the root of Canada’s national story.

Ontario has walked back plans on class sizes and online courses

The Ford government is looking to reach a deal with teacher unions that have been conducting rolling strike actions amid stalled contract talks.

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The changes: The province will limit high-school class sizes to an average of 23, instead of the previous goals of 28 and then 25. Parents would also be able to opt their children out of mandatory online courses; the government initially said four courses would be required before dropping that to two.

What’s not changing: As part of the new offer, Ontario is requiring that unions comply with public-sector wage-cap legislation meant to limit pay increases to 1 per cent.

The union response: Several union leaders said they had yet to see the details of the government’s proposal, with one cautioning that past announcements didn’t “necessarily translate into negotiating proposals at the table.”

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ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Alberta’s parks a casualty of budget cuts: The province has closed 10 parks and another 10 will be partly closed, some cross-country ski trails won’t be maintained and the camping season is being shortened – cost-saving measures that opponents say will hurt Alberta’s identity, marketing and tourism revenue.

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EDC vows greater transparency: Canada’s export bank is promising to be more transparent after facing accusations of excessive secrecy in its dealings with clients. Last year, the federal agency admitted it made a mistake lending US$41-million to a South African family at the heart of a corruption scandal.

MORNING MARKETS

Bond yields near record lows after Fed rate cut: Bonds held their gains on Wednesday as investors digested the U.S. Federal Reserve’s dramatic move to cut interest rates in an effort to contain economic damage from the coronavirus. Overseas, Britain’s FTSE 100 gained 1.41 per cent just after 6 a.m. ET. Germany’s DAX rose 1.29 per cent and France’s CAC gained 1.40 per cent. In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index finished 0.63 per cent higher. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gave up early gains to finish down 0.24 per cent. In Japan, Tokyo’s Nikkei edged up 0.08 per cent. New York futures were higher. The Canadian dollar was trading at 74.86 US cents.

WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT

A carbon pricing plan Conservatives could get behind

Andrew Coyne: “Michael Chong tried to [sell the carbon tax] by pairing it with deep cuts in income taxes. The lesson of his failure, in my view, is not to give up, but to go further: by folding carbon pricing into a larger portfolio of pro-growth and pro-development policies, using it as a sword not only to cut taxes, but to prune back the regulatory state.”

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TODAY’S EDITORIAL CARTOON

(Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail)

LIVING BETTER

What’s on stage across Canada March 3-8

The Runner, a sensational solo play about a volunteer paramedic in Israel, is on at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre through March 29. It also has upcoming engagements in Winnipeg, Ottawa, Gananoque and Kitchener.

In Vancouver, the madcap quick-change comedy The Wedding Party runs through March 22 at Arts Club.

And in Montreal, a new English version of the hit psychological thriller Mob is at the Centaur Theatre until March 29.

For a weekly preview of what’s opening on Canadian stages, sign up for The Globe’s new Nestruck on Theatre newsletter.

MOMENT IN TIME

Bertha Wilson is appointed to the Supreme Court

(The Canadian Press)

March 4, 1982: The Supreme Court of Canada had been around for 107 years, its seats occupied by 57 men, before prime minister Pierre Trudeau asked Bertha Wilson to join the court on this day in 1982. It had been a long journey, for the Scottish immigrant and for the country. Three decades earlier, the dean of law at Dalhousie University, Horace Read, had told her the school did not want “dilettantes,” and suggested she take up crocheting. But now, change was in the air. Jean Chrétien, the justice minister, said she was chosen because “she is a very able judge,” adding: “Of course I’m pleased that she’s a woman." The following month, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms became law, and she would be part of a liberal core on the court that would ensure it could be used to fight discrimination of all kinds. In 1990, she would write the court’s unanimous ruling in a case called R. v. Lavallee, establishing battered woman syndrome as part of the law of self-defence. By the time she retired in 1991, she had a reputation as a fiercely independent judge and a prolific writer of judgments. She died in 2007. – Sean Fine

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