The latest news:
- Outbreaks at seniors’ homes linked to almost half of COVID-19 deaths in Canada
- Canada, U.S. in talks to extend border closure for a few more weeks for non-essential travel
- Nearly 5.4 million receiving emergency federal aid as requests climb
- Montreal nursing home under investigation after 31 seniors die
- Health Canada has approved a new rapid test for COVID-19 that can produce results in under an hour
B.C.’s COVID-19 death total rises to 69 with 11 new deaths; concerns at prison
Health officials in British Columbia say they are doing their utmost to contain a COVID-19 outbreak at a federal medium-security prison where 35 people have tested positive and eight are in hospital.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday it’s challenging “playing catch up” once the disease presents itself at facilities such as Mission Institution or long-term care homes for the elderly.
The prison, located about 70 kilometres east of Vancouver, has a capacity of 216. A nearby minimum-security site has room for 324, says Correctional Service Canada.
“We are working very hard to ensure that the transmission within that facility will be contained,” Henry said at a news conference. “Unfortunately, there was quite a lot of transmission that happened before the outbreak was recognized and we are now seeing people who were exposed over the previous two weeks developing symptoms.”
Henry reported 11 new COVID-19 deaths in B.C. since Saturday, which brings the province’s total to 69. She announced 45 new COVID-19 cases, increasing the total number to 1,490.
Henry said 137 people are in hospital, with 58 of those in intensive care. She said the outbreak remains in 20 long-term care facilities.
– The Canadian Press
Alberta expands COVID-19 testing to everyone experiencing symptoms
Alberta is expanding its eligibility for COVID-19 testing to anyone with symptoms of the illness.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s medical officer of health, said Monday that the measure is effective immediately and that the most effective way to arrange for testing is to complete an online assessment form on the Alberta Health Services website.
Testing can be done for anyone who has a fever, cough, runny nose, shortness of breath or a sore throat, she said.
Ten days ago, the province cleared a backlog of tests connected to people who had travelled abroad and began testing those who were most at risk, Hinshaw said.
She said the province has completed more than 77,000 tests so far and has a current capacity of 7,000 tests a day. Alberta is hoping to do 20,000 tests a day by mid- to late May, she added.
Hinshaw also announced Monday that the province saw 81 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 1,732.
She said testing all symptomatic Albertans will give officials a better picture of COVID-19 trending over time.
But she said the rate of hospitalizations is a more accurate indicator of the trend than the province’s total case numbers.
– The Canadian Press
Saskatchewan’s plan to reopen the economy could come next week
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says the government may soon release a plan on reopening the economy if COVID-19 case numbers remain low.
The Ministry of Health announced two new cases on Monday, bringing the total in the province to 300.
Moe said residents can’t become complacent, but the current infection rate seems to be flat and the government can start thinking about what reopening parts of the province will look like.
“There is no magic switch that we can flip that sends everything back to normal overnight,” he told a news conference.
Moe said officials will spend this week looking at how to reopen the economy and, if cases remain low, the plan will be released sometime next week.
When officials do start lifting restrictions and reopening businesses, Moe said it will be done gradually.
The government would need to see case numbers remain steady over a number of days to a couple of weeks before it starts relaxing restrictions, the premier added.
“We are only one outbreak away from interrupting those numbers.”
Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, said the volume of new cases from international travel in the province has decreased.
He said officials continue to look at how COVID-19 patients are becoming infected to track the spread.
– The Canadian Press
Manitoba extends public health orders
Manitoba has extended public health orders until the end of the month and officials say measures will be enhanced in the coming days.
Chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, announced four new cases of COVID-19 on Monday for a total of 246 positive and probable cases.
“We are still early in this outbreak, but these numbers show that our efforts are having some benefit,” Dr. Roussin said.
He cautioned that although the number is low compared with other provinces, that does not mean there’s a diminished risk.
Eight Manitobans were in hospital Monday, four in intensive care.
Four people have died.
Dr. Roussin said the virus is affecting every health region in the province and all Manitobans need to follow public health orders and take precautions.
The orders, which were to expire Tuesday, include limiting public gatherings to no more than 10 people and the closure of non-critical businesses. Dr. Roussin said he is preparing to announce more orders this week, which may include limiting the size of gatherings further.
– The Canadian Press
Residential construction to resume in Quebec
Quebec will allow residential construction to resume over the coming days as it expands its list of essential services in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
The two sectors are among a handful of activities expected to ramp back up under new modifications released by the province Monday. The government is also giving the green light to mining as well as all auto repairs after having restricted garages to serving only vehicles necessary for essential services.
“We don’t want to add a housing crisis on top of the current health crisis we’re living through,” Quebec Premier François Legault told reporters.
Protocols have been put in place to protect workers, Mr. Legault said. Work on homes slated for delivery to occupants by July 31 will be allowed to resume as of April 20, the government said in a statement.
Quebec and Ontario announced last month that non-essential businesses should close to help contain the spread of COVID-19 but their lists of what constituted an essential business did not perfectly match. Ontario had kept residential construction, mining and car repair going.
– Nicolas Van Praet in Montreal
Quebec says 711 new cases identified
Quebec is reporting 32 more COVID-19 deaths today, bringing the provincial total to 360.
Premier François Legault says there are 13,557 confirmed cases of the virus in the province, an increase of 711 cases in one day.
There are 879 cases requiring hospitalization, of which 226 are in intensive care.
Mr. Legault says 40 privately owned long-term care homes were inspected across the province over the weekend after 31 deaths were reported at a Montreal-area private residence.
He says the situation is stable in the residences, and most are providing adequate care, but four or five are being monitored.
– The Canadian Press
Death toll will keep rising because of outbreaks at long-term care: Tam
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says deaths from COVID-19 will continue to rise even as the number of cases overall in Canada may go down.
Dr. Tam says that’s because of outbreaks in long-term care facilities.
She says close to half of the deaths being tracked are linked to long-term care facilities.
Dr. Tam says all jurisdictions are trying to deal with those outbreaks but as people learn more about how to respond, new measures are being put in place.
– The Canadian Press
Ottawa directs funds to farm workers affected by quarantine orders
The federal government is providing $50-million to help farmers and food processors cover the costs associated with mandatory quarantine rules for workers coming in from outside the country.
Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau says the labour shortage on farms is acute and depends on foreign temporary workers.
But rules designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 mean this year’s incoming workers must quarantine for 14 days.
Ms. Bibeau says employers are committed to making sure workers follow those rules but they do come at a cost.
She says the money is designed to help offset those and will give employers $1,500 per worker to help put quarantine measures in place.
– The Canadian Press
Conservatives call on Liberals for action on restaurant and hospitality sectors
The Opposition Conservatives are calling on the Trudeau Liberals to come up with a plan specifically to help the nation’s restaurant, hospitality and tourism sectors. Many of them were either among the first to close due to public health concerns related to COVID-19, or have seen dramatic declines in business as consumer spending drops.
A handful of Conservative critics say in a statement this morning that the government must give these businesses the tools to open their doors again. The party also says such a plan would help businesses retain workers through the pandemic, especially in areas with historically high unemployment.
Among the ideas being proposed are temporarily allowing owner-operators to qualify for the federal wage subsidy program as well as refunding a year’s worth of GST remittances to small businesses. -Canadian Press
Indigo rehires 545 workers
Indigo Books and Music Inc. says it is rehiring 545 of its workers after tapping into the federal government’s emergency wage subsidy.
The Toronto-based retailer temporarily laid off 5,200 of its retail employees and closed its retail locations in mid-March amid an outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
The Indigo workers being rehired are in salaried and leadership roles at retail locations.
The rehiring comes as Indigo says its online channel has experienced triple-digit growth.
The company, however, warned that COVID-19 is expected to have a material impact on its fiscal 2021 business, operations and financial performance.
Indigo says it is too early to quantify how much of an impact the virus will have on its business because the extent, duration and severity of the pandemic are still unknown and government restrictions and consumer behaviour are still changing. -Canadian Press
Ontario reports new COVID-19 deaths
Ontario is reporting 421 new COVID-19 cases today and 17 new deaths. That brings the province to a total of 7,470 cases, including 291 deaths and 3,357 that have been resolved. It’s an increase of six per cent over Sunday’s total number of cases, continuing a relatively low growth rate of the past several days.
The number of patients in hospital — 760 — rose slightly, but rates of patients in intensive care and on ventilators remained relatively stable. -Canadian Press
Toronto will open two more child care centres for essential workers
Toronto Mayor John Tory says the city will open two more child care centres for children of essential and critical service workers.
The city has opened four other child care centres to help out those who are helping on the frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic.The centres will open downtown where there has been the most demand.
Federal officials to provide COVID-19 update focused on seniors, foreign workers
Federal officials are due to provide an update on measures for seniors, home care and temporary foreign workers during the COVID-19 crisis today.
The Prime Minister’s Office says the news will come from public health officials and cabinet ministers — not Justin Trudeau, who’s taking the day off from public appearances.
The expected update comes after a weekend that saw Quebec’s premier rebuke a long-term care home where 31 residents have died in less than a month.
Francois Legault says there was “gross negligence” at Residence Herron, where five of the deaths are definitively linked to COVID-19.
Authorities first inspected Residence Herron on March 29, three days after word of the first death, and found the residence “deserted” as staff had walked off the job.
The province’s coroner will investigate, as will police.
Numerous other long-term care homes across the country are experiencing outbreaks of the novel coronavirus, including Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, Ont., which has seen 29 of its residents die in recent weeks. -Canadian Press
And on Saturday, Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet raised concern about temporary foreign workers arriving in Canada to work on farms.
The federal government has exempted migrant workers from COVID-19 travel restrictions because of their importance to the economy. Officials have said they’ll face health screening before travelling to Canada and will isolate for 14 days once they get here.
But Blanchet says he believes those rules don’t go far enough.
April 10: Alberta announces new rules for health staff; Advisory group made for disabled Canadians
April 9: B.C. ramps up mental health support for health care workers; Manitoba to issue fines for public gatherings
April 8: Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador release coronavirus projections
April 7: Care home workers are the frontlines of Canada’s COVID-19 outbreaks; Quebec projects 1,236 deaths by end of month
April 6: Boris Johnson in intensive care; 3M to resume exports of N95 masks to Canada
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