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People walk alongside the Rideau River in Ottawa, on Sunday, May 3, 2020.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

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9:00 p.m. EDT

COVID-19 playbook to reopen B.C. amid pandemic coming Wednesday, says Dr. Henry

Safe ways to increase social and economic contacts in British Columbia will form the basics of a plan to start relaxing provincial pandemic restrictions that have kept people close to their homes since mid-March, says provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

Premier John Horgan, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Henry are set to announce B.C.’s plans to begin easing restrictions as COVID-19 case numbers continue to decline in the province.

People must get back to work and families, friends and communities need to tighten the social fabric, but it must be done safely to prevent a resurgence of COVID-19, Henry said Monday at a news conference.

“This is, I believe, the end of the beginning of our pandemic,” she said. “It is our curve and we can continue to push it down and keep it there. It is in our hands as long as we don’t forget to wash them.”

Henry said modelling data tracking COVID-19 in B.C. from Jan. 1 to April 29 reveals the spread of the virus has been declining since physical distancing measures were introduced, and schools, restaurants and bars were closed in mid-March.

She said the data suggests B.C. could move towards a doubling of the current rate of contacts most people have with others without causing a spike in COVID-19 cases but returning to pre-pandemic lifestyles of last year could be dangerous.

“If we go back to December, where we were having lots of gatherings where people meet, where this virus has the opportunity to take off quite rapidly, we could expect to see just that,” said Henry. “Our challenge and our work together is to find that sweet spot.”

B.C. reported 53 new COVID-19 cases and three deaths since Saturday.

Henry said B.C. now has a total of 2,224 positive COVID-19 cases of which 1,417 people have recovered.

She said the provincial death total is now at 117 people. The three most recent deaths are people who were residents of long-term care centres, Henry said.

B.C.’s successes in slowing the spread of COVID-19 gives the province room to reopen more sectors of the economy, she said.

“Physical distancing, it has made a difference,” said Henry. “It has allowed us to put the brakes on COVID-19 but we haven’t stopped the car. There’s so much we actually don’t know about this virus.”

She said more details about the government’s plans to reopen B.C. will be introduced Wednesday, but she offered some directions those plans could take.

Henry said effective moves by grocery stores to protect workers and customers with plastic shields separating the cashier from customer, limits on number of people in stores and physical distancing in aisles could be implemented at other retail outlets and restaurants and bars.

But Henry said the restrictions on the size of gatherings of people will not be lifted.

“Some of the things we’ll not be changing is the near future are the orders, for example, on the numbers of people who can congregate together,” she said. “Right now, that’s at 50. Smaller is better, outside is safer than inside.”

- Canadian Press

5:30 p.m. EDT

Nunavut’s first COVID-19 case turns out to be false positive

Canada’s High Arctic may still be free of the novel coronavirus.

A case of COVID-19 supposedly confirmed in the remote Nunavut community of Pond Inlet last week has turned out to be a false positive.

“Huge relief,” said David Stockley, the hamlet’s chief administrative officer.

“It answered a lot of prayers for a lot of people.”

Last Thursday, the territory reported what it thought was its first case of infection – a person in the hamlet of about 1,600 on the northern tip of Baffin Island.

On Monday, the territory’s chief medical health officer said there had been a false positive by a lab in Ontario. Nunavut does its tests twice – once in Iqaluit and then a confirmatory test in the south.

After the initial positive test, Nunavut scrambled an emergency response team to the community to trace the person’s contacts. When all those contacts tested negative in Iqaluit, a request was made to retest the samples of the person thought to be infected.

The retest reversed the original conclusion.

Health officials have feared the appearance of COVID-19 in Arctic communities since the beginning of the pandemic. Their remoteness makes it difficult to move people and equipment, local health-care facilities are easily overwhelmed and overcrowded housing makes it easy for illness to spread.

Nunavut responded swiftly to news of the supposed positive test.

Supplies and an emergency response team of nurses skilled in contact tracing were brought in. All general public travel in or out of the community was banned.

The extra measures imposed on Pond Inlet have since been lifted.

Premier Joe Savikataaq said while Nunavut still appears to be free of COVID-19, the war against the novel coronavirus goes on.

“While this is a relief for many Nunavummiut, it does not mean anyone should relax or ease up on physical distancing, hand-washing and cleaning up,” he said in a release.

- Canadian Press

2:55 p.m. EDT

Ontario getting close to reopening parks, retail curbside pickup, Ford says

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is teasing good news on steps toward reopening for retail stores, parks and cottagers, if the COVID-19 numbers keep going down.

Ontario is reporting 370 new cases of COVID-19 today, and 84 more deaths.

That brings the provincial total to nearly 17,923 cases, including 1,300 deaths and 12,505 resolved cases — nearly 70 per cent of all of Ontario’s cases.

The new total is 2.1 per cent higher than the previous day, which is part of a downward trend.

Ford says as trends head in the right direction, it means Ontario is “getting close” to opening parks and retail for curbside pickup.

The premier also says he will speak with cottage country mayors this week, adding that with the May long weekend approaching, there’s only so long he can “hold the big gates back.”

- Canadian Press

12:45 p.m. EDT

Tam says workplaces face new challenges as restrictions ease

Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, says Canadians are going to need how to learn to live with COVID-19.

She says that means even as things begin to reopen, people will have to keep practising physical distancing and cough etiquette, and stay home at the first sign of symptoms.

Tam says working while sick can no longer be allowed.

She also said Monday that taking the temperature of people as a screening measure for COVID-19 is ineffective, especially by itself.

Dr. Theresa Tam made the comments today in response to news that Air Canada will be taking the temperature of passengers before boarding.

She said the more is understood about the novel coronavirus, the more it becomes clear that temperature taking is “not effective at all” to identify people who have it.

12:10 p.m. EDT

Quebec faces calls to delay reopening schools and business in Montreal

Quebec’s official Opposition is calling on the provincial government to push back the dates for reopening businesses and schools in the Montreal area.

Quebec Liberal Leader Pierre Arcand says it’s too early to consider easing COVID-19 containment measures in the city, which counted over 16,000 cases and 1,365 deaths as of yesterday.

In a news conference in front of a COVID-stricken long-term care home, Arcand said the province should first increase its testing rate and bring the transmission of the virus under control.

The province is expected to gradually allow most retail stores in the Montreal area to reopen next week, while elementary schools and daycares are scheduled to resume a week later with distancing measures in place.

Premier François Legault has said the situation in the province is largely stable with the exception of long-term care homes and some hospitals, but has promised health officials won’t hesitate to delay opening dates if the situation warrants.

The province has also promised to significantly ramp up testing and has opened a new testing centre in the hard-hit borough of Montreal-Nord, the site of one of the city’s worst outbreaks.

- Canadian Press

11:15 a.m. EDT

Ontario reports 370 new COVID-19 cases, 84 more deaths

Ontario is reporting 370 new cases of COVID-19 today, and 84 more deaths.

That brings the provincial total to nearly 17,923 cases, including 1,300 deaths and 12,505 resolved cases – nearly 70 per cent of all of Ontario’s cases.

The new provincial total is 2.1 per cent higher than the previous day, which is part of a downward trend.

The number of people in hospital dropped, as did the number of people in hospital, and the amount of people on ventilators remained relatively stable.

In long-term care, where information comes from a different database than the provincial totals, five more outbreaks were reported for a total of 175, and 18 more deaths were reported for a total of 972.

There were 14,555 tests completed in the past 24 hours, the lowest total in four days, though officials have said there tends to be less demand on the weekends.

- Canadian Press

10:37 a.m. EDT

Scheer calls for federal support for reopening

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says the Liberal government must demonstrate a plan to backstop efforts by provinces to slowly reopen their economies.

Scheer says the provinces do and should have control over making those decisions.

But he says the role of the federal government is to support them by ensuring adequate supplies of COVID-19 testing kits and personal protective equipment.

Scheer says he also has concerns that current federal benefit programs don’t allow enough flexibility for people to return to some work but not lose their income support from Ottawa.

- The Canadian Press

9:30 a.m. EDT

Ottawa donates $850-million for vaccine development

Canada has pledged $850-million to bolster international efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine and treatment, as well as aid for developing countries.

The European Union organized the pledge conference in an effort to fill the World Health Organization’s funding gaps.

The goal is to raise $11.5-billion for vaccine and treatment options for COVID-19 and make them available and affordable worldwide.

The EU says this is just the first wave of funding that will be needed.

In his address, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau highlighted that Canada has already promised $850-million towards the international effort to fight the spread of the pandemic.

- The Canadian Press

A volunteer sorts food items in the receiving area of the warehouse at the Ottawa Food Bank in Ottawa, on Thursday, April 23, 2020.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

8:30 a.m. EDT

BC Egg announces food bank donations

British Columbia’s egg producers are joining the effort to keep Canadians fed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

BC Egg, the organization representing all registered egg farmers in the province, says it will donate 25,000 dozen eggs to Food Banks BC every week.

The organization says all egg farmers in B.C. will share the cost of the donation.

Food Banks BC executive director Laura Lansink says protein is one of the most sought-after food bank items and more than 100,000 individuals, families and children who depend on food assistance every month will appreciate the donation.

- The Canadian Press

4 a.m. EDT

B.C. health officials to release new COVID-19 modelling figures

The British Columbia government is expected to release new modelling data for COVID-19 today, as the province also prepares to begin reopening the economy.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said Saturday that B.C. is not entering a new phase of spread or containment but the government will provide more details about whom the virus is affecting.

At least 2,171 British Columbians have been infected with COVID-19, including 114 who have died and 1,376 who have fully recovered.

British Columbia hasn’t released its reopening plan, however Premier John Horgan is promising details this week.

Henry says officials will not open different sectors until they are sure those sectors have a workable plan to make sure protections are in place.

She says outbreaks at three poultry plants act as a cautionary tale about the importance of workplace safety measures and ensuring physical distance at work.

“That tells us we need to make sure we have the right safety measures in place in each area of our economy to make sure we can all be comforted and understand that we are opening up safely and slowly and methodically,” Henry said.

- The Canadian Press

Four golfers putt on the greens at the Stanhope Golf & Country Club in Stanhope, PEI, May 1, 2020.JOHN MORRIS/The Globe and Mail

4 a.m. EDT

Several provinces begin easing COVID-19 lockdown restrictions

A much anticipated new phase in the COVID-19 pandemic starts today with several provinces beginning the process of slowly loosening some of their lockdown restrictions.

Quebec, which accounts for more than half of Canada’s coronavirus cases, including deaths from the illness, is reopening retail stores outside Montreal while those in the greater Montreal area are to reopen on May 11.

Ontario, the other epicentre for the virus, is allowing a small list of mostly seasonal businesses to reopen, including garden centres with curbside pick-ups, lawn care and landscaping companies, and automatic car washes.

Manitoba’s museums, libraries and retail businesses — including restaurant patios — can re-open today, though at only half capacity. The province, along with Saskatchewan and Alberta, are also letting non-essential medical activities, such as dentistry and physiotherapy to resume.

British Columbia has yet to release its reopening plan, however, Premier John Horgan is promising details this week.

The Maritime provinces, where COVID-19 caseloads have been trending downward, began relaxing some restrictions over the past week, primarily in the areas of public health services and outdoor recreation.

Meanwhile, Newfoundland and Labrador plans to loosen some of its public health and recreation restrictions on May 11.

It must be noted that even though some lockdown restrictions are being eased, physical distancing rules and guidelines still apply.

Canada has now recorded 59,474 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 3,682 deaths and 24,921 cases resolved.

- The Canadian Press

4 a.m. EDT

Provinces must give emotional support to returning students: education advocates

Bored and isolated students are spending too many hours online and some have started using more substances, but all students will need extra emotional support when classes resume, says a psychiatrist who specializes in youth mental health.

Dr. Shimi Kang said that while teens typically question authority and act impulsively, some are now self-medicating with substances or ignoring physical distancing measures as a way to deal with anxiety resulting from the pandemic.

“I would encourage schools to start with social emotional programming and talk about things like coping skills right in that first week going back, talk about what coping skills people used at home, what they can do now as they’re reintegrating,” said Kang, a clinical assistant professor at the University of British Columbia’s department of psychiatry.

She said academics will have to take a back seat to allowing students to express their thoughts and emotions as part of so-called social emotional learning that is already part of many curriculums across the country as a way to teach students to manage their emotions, learn empathy and compassion and to build resilience as part of a life-long practice.

That type of learning, which is separate from providing mental health supports, may involve students’ response to what’s happening in their community or around the world and being aware of how they would cope with certain situations, Kang said.

“If there’s anything that this pandemic has shown, it is that life skills get us through. It is the adaptability, the resiliency, the communication skills, the emotional regulation skills, the ability to problem solve and have optimism in the face of difficulty. That’s where we need to put our focus.”

It’s no longer good enough for schools to jam in a lesson on social emotional learning to meet the criteria, she said, advising that it should be incorporated into the overall kindergarten-to-Grade 12 curriculum.

- The Canadian Press

3 a.m. EDT

Halifax long-term care home reports six more deaths

The COVID-19 death toll at the Northwood long term care home in Halifax is mounting, with management calling the situation an “incredibly heartbreaking time.”

Northwood reported six more deaths yesterday.

Of the province’s 37 deaths, 31 have been at the non-profit facility.

As of Sunday, Nova Scotia has 347 active cases of COVID-19, and of those 220 are residents of Northwood.

- The Canadian Press

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