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Speaker of the House of Commons Anthony Rota delivers opening remarks during the first video meeting of the special committee on the COVID-19 pandemic.BLAIR GABLE/Reuters

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11:45 p.m. EDT

Dix calls for extra COVID-19 vigilance as poultry plant cases rise

VICTORIA - COVID-19 outbreaks at two Vancouver-area poultry processing plants are responsible for many of the new cases reported in British Columbia on Tuesday, the provincial government says.

Health officials closed the United Poultry Co. Ltd. plant in east Vancouver and Coquitlam’s Superior Poultry Processors Ltd. after dozens of workers tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says most of the 55 new positive tests reported Tuesday are connected to the Coquitlam facility.

The province says there were 21 new cases identified in at Superior Poultry over the past 24 hours.

There are a total of 80 COVID-19 cases linked to the two poultry facilities, with 46 at Superior Poultry and 34 at United Poultry.

B.C. has a total of 2,053 cases, of which 1,231 people have recovered.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry reported two more deaths in B.C. for a total of 105.

Dix said B.C.’s ongoing plans to ease restrictions revolve around efforts to prevent the virus from rebooting itself.

He said the cases in the poultry industry shows “the serious nature of particular outbreaks.”

“Right now, here’s something to consider, that protecting employees, protecting your employees on the business side protects your business and protects all British Columbians.”

- Canadian Press

9:45 p.m. EDT

Staff at Jesse Ketchum Early Learning and Child Care Centre test positive for COVID-19

The City of Toronto says it is closing down one of its child care centres for 14 days after three staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

Jesse Ketchum Early Learning and Child Care Centre is one of seven city-run centres providing child care for children of essential workers.

The city says two other staff members at the facility, as well as two children, are awaiting test results.

Staff are still reaching out to notify parents of the 58 children who attend the centre.

Staff members and the children are being advised to stay home for two weeks from their last day at the centre.

- Canadian Press

9:00 p.m. EDT

SickKids treating two COVID-19 cases

Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children says it now has two patients with unrelated cases of COVID-19 — and one of them is linked to an outbreak that infected their parents and a member of the clinical team.

SickKids says the outbreak involves a teenage patient who was in an inpatient unit specializing in hematology/oncology.

They say all patients on the affected unit have tested negative for COVID-19 and that everyone who has been exposed or suspected to have been exposed has been notified.

The other case involves a patient who tested positive Tuesday morning, after arriving Monday.

Both patients were being cared for in a unit with dedicated procedures and processes developed for COVID-19 cases.

- Canadian Press

4:30 p.m. EDT

P.E.I. government announces phased plan to ease public health restrictions

Prince Edward Island has reported its first new case of COVID-19 in almost two weeks, while announcing the first phase of a plan to ease public health restrictions.

A man in his 50s who returned from international travel became the 27th case on the Island. Twenty-four of those cases are considered recovered and there have been no deaths from COVID-19 on P.E.I.

Meanwhile, the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Heather Morrison, announced the first phase of the government’s “Renew P.E.I. Together” plan.

Priority non-urgent health care services will begin on Friday, May 1 — including certain elective surgeries and select health service providers including physiotherapists, optometrists and chiropractors.

Also beginning May 1, outdoor gatherings and non-contact outdoor recreational activities of no more than five individuals from different households will be permitted, as long as participants maintain physical distancing.

For the foreseeable future, screening will continue at points of entry to the province and all persons entering P.E.I. will be required to self-isolate for 14 days.

- Canadian Press

2:55 p.m. EDT

New Brunswick to stop temporary foreign workers from entering province

The New Brunswick government says it will restrict temporary foreign workers from entering the province.

Premier Blaine Higgs says with so many outbreaks of COVID-19 in surrounding jurisdictions, the province’s borders must remain closed for now.

This restriction does not affect the status of temporary foreign workers currently in the province.Meanwhile, people are being allowed to enter New Brunswick for less than 24 hours to remove belongings from a student’s residence.

Anyone leaving New Brunswick to remove belongings from a residence in another province is being ordered to self-isolate for 14 days when they return.

- Canadian Press

12:55 p.m. EDT

MPs meet online in first virtual session of House of Commons

Canada’s first-ever virtual House of Commons is underway with almost 90 per cent of all MPs dialed in.

The House of Commons special committee on COVID-19 is meeting via videoconference this afternoon and shortly after the noon start time, 297 of 338 MPs had dialed into it.

The special committee was struck as a way to circumvent the rules that govern how official sittings must occur, while further discussions are held about whether those rules can be changed to allow virtual sittings of the House officially.

Just as many Canadians have discovered moving in-person meetings to the virtual world, MPs experienced some technical glitches in the opening moments, mostly as they figured out how to both hear each other and unmute themselves.

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet also had to pause his opening speech because something in his office was ringing, though unlike the real House of Commons, Speaker Anthony Rota did not chastise him for the interruption.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu was the first member of cabinet to issue a statement, thanking front-line and essential workers for their service, and Canadians for doing their part to help flatten the curve of the COVID-19 outbreak in Canada.

- Canadian Press

11:50 a.m. EDT

Nova Scotia reports three deaths at Halifax nursing home

Nova Scotia is reporting three more deaths related to COVID-19, bringing the province’s total to 27.

Health officials are also reporting 15 new cases of the virus bringing the total of confirmed cases to 915.

The province says the newly reported deaths occurred at the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax, which has been hardest hit by the disease.

There are 10 licensed long-term care homes and unlicensed seniors facilities in Nova Scotia with cases of COVID-19, involving 218 residents and 95 staff.

Nova Scotia has registered 26,902 negative test results, while 522 people have recovered.

- Canadian Press

11:20 a.m. EDT

COVID-19 numbers improving, Trudeau says, but too soon to lift restrictions

Canada is making progress in the battle against the COVID-19 epidemic but we’re far from out of the woods, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday as his government prepared to release new projections for the disease.

At the same time, Trudeau warned that caution remains the watchword when it comes to lifting restrictions that have devastated the economy.

“The measures we’ve taken so far are working. In many parts of the country, the curve has flattened,” Trudeau said at his daily briefing. “(But) if we lift measures too quickly, we might lose the progress we’ve made.”

As provinces release their outlines or plans for getting their people on the road to normalcy, the prime minister said the federal government would also be releasing its framework for easing up on the restrictions. However, he said it’s imperative to have a co-ordinated and consistent approach “grounded in shared understanding and appreciation” of the threats we face.

Getting the country moving, he said, won’t be an overnight process. Among other things, it will depend on capacity for testing and tracing coronavirus infections and ensuring that workers are safe on the job.

“Controlling transmission is key,” he said. “Restarting our economy will be gradual and careful and will be guided by science.”

Canada is closing in on 50,000 known cases, of which more than 2,700 have been fatal. Ontario, in its latest report, snapped a three-day string of declining new cases as another 59 more people died. The province is now approaching 1,000 deaths.

- Canadian Press

11:10 a.m. EDT

New Ontario cases tick up after three days of declines

Ontario is reporting 525 new COVID-19 cases today and 59 more deaths.

That ends three consecutive days of declining numbers of new cases.

In Ontario’s reopening framework announced Monday, the government said the chief medical officer will be looking for a consistent, two-to-four-week decrease in the number of new cases before advising moving to the first stage.

Dr. David Williams would also be looking for fewer new hospitalizations, and those numbers also rose today, though the numbers of people in intensive care and on ventilators declined slightly.

The new provincial total of 15,381 cases is an increase of 3.5 per cent over the previous day’s total and includes 951 deaths and 8,964 resolved cases.

The Ministry of Long-Term Care reported 34 new deaths in residents of those facilities — a number that comes from a different database than the overall provincial figures.

- Canadian Press

8:20 a.m. EDT

Rights groups demand inquest into inmate’s death at Mission Institution

More than three dozen organizations from across British Columbia and Canada are demanding an immediate inquest into the April 15th death of an inmate due to COVID-19.

The unnamed man died at Mission Institution east of Vancouver – where 106 inmates have now tested positive for the virus – and he became Canada’s first reported COVID-related death of a federal prisoner.

Thirty-eight groups representing human rights, prisoners’ rights, health and legal interests have sent a letter to B.C.’s chief coroner and solicitor general saying an immediate inquest is in the public interest.

They say inmates cannot be allowed to die in prison from the “ticking timebomb of COVID-19” and call an inquest a “minimum first step” to ensure similar deaths are prevented.

- The Canadian Press

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Personal protective equipment is seen in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul's hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020.JONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press

4 a.m. EDT

Doctors see little progress on improving PPE supply

The Canadian Medical Association says a new survey of its members found that most have not seen an improvement in the supply of personal protective equipment in the last month.

Getting vital equipment to protect themselves has been a struggle for doctors across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A recent survey of nearly 2,500 doctors across Canada found 42 per cent had seen no change in the supply of gear such as masks and face shields in the last month, while 29 per cent felt the supply is now worse.

On the flip side, 22 per cent say there’s been some improvement to the PPE supply, but only six per cent say it’s been a significant change.

The vast majority, 88 per cent, say a greater supply of PPE would reduce their anxiety during the pandemic.

CMA president Dr. Sandy Buchman says physicians’ anxieties are compounded by a lack of information, and he calls for greater government transparency about the supply of PPE.

- The Canadian Press

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Research associate Phuong-Danh Tran, of RNA medicines company Arcturus Therapeutics, conducts research on a vaccine for COVID-19 at a laboratory in San Diego, California, March 17, 2020.Bing Guan/Reuters

4 a.m. EDT

Canadians divided over making COVID-19 vaccine mandatory: poll

While researchers across the planet race to find a vaccine for COVID-19, a new poll suggests Canadians are divided over whether getting it should be mandatory or voluntary.

The poll conducted by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies found 60 per cent of respondents believed a vaccine should be mandatory while the other 40 per cent felt it should be voluntary.

Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque says that doesn’t mean only 60 per cent of Canadians would get the vaccine, but he nonetheless would have expected much higher support for a mandatory vaccine given the scale and scope of the pandemic.

The poll also found the majority of respondents would be comfortable returning to their places of work and even shopping at a mall or farmers’ market if the government lifted restrictions on such activities.

But there were worries about activities in which respondents had less control over their surroundings and physical distancing, such as going to restaurants, bars, gyms and large gatherings such as sporting events and concerts.

The poll was conducted April 24 to 26 and surveyed 1,504 adult Canadians recruited from Leger’s online panel.

- The Canadian Press

4 a.m. EDT

Conservatives look for answers in return of House of Commons

The Conservative Party is poised to press the government on numerous issues during a modified version of a House of Commons sitting today.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says he’s looking for more specifics from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when it comes to the country’s handling of COVID-19.

Scheer says he wants a plan outlining how the government will support provinces and territories “over and above the national guidelines that are currently being developed.”

Today marks the first meeting of a special committee struck to somewhat mirror the routine of the House of Commons.

All 338 MPs are on the committee, but only seven are required for quorum, as opposed to the 20 for a normal sitting of the Commons.

Also today, the federal government says it will be holding a briefing on data and modelling “informing public health action on coronavirus disease.”

-The Canadian Press

4 a.m. EDT

Allergies or COVID? Expert says symptoms differ, but best to take precautions

While springtime pollen can cause sneezing, wheezing and watery eyes in allergy sufferers, a Toronto allergist says it’s best to take precautions if seasonal symptoms start presenting like those more common in COVID cases.

“There is a real risk here — or at least a real temptation — to try to minimize symptoms and brush them off and say: ‘well, it’s only allergy, let’s see how things go,“’ said Dr. Peter Vadas, the head physician at the Allergy and Immunology Clinic at St. Michael’s Hospital.

“But if it turns out that it’s not allergy, and you’ve been out and about potentially spreading this infection around, you’ve done an enormous disservice to the public and to yourself.”

The Mayo Clinic’s website says seasonal allergy, also called hay fever, causes “cold-like signs and symptoms, such as a runny nose, itchy eyes, congestion, sneezing and sinus pressure.”

Hay fever isn’t caused by a virus though, like the common cold or COVID-19. Rather, it’s an allergic response to either indoor allergens like pet dander, or outdoor allergens that tend to ramp up around early spring.

Vadas, who’s received an influx of questions about allergy symptoms in recent weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic, said that early spring brings with it two major allergens — tree pollen in the air that can travel from far distances, and outdoor mould spores caused by rain-dampened soil.

Grass pollen comes into play later in the spring, around May and June, Vadas added. He said checking the weather forecast for pollen and mould counts could help in determining whether symptoms are caused by outdoor allergens or something else.

The major distinction between allergies and COVID-19, Vadas said, is the presence of fever that’s usually associated with the coronavirus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States lists cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and a new loss of taste or smell as other common symptoms of COVID-19.

- The Canadian Press

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