Quebec reopening bars and hotels, Ontario premier wants borders to stay closed

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Yahoo News Canada is committed to providing our readers with the most accurate and recent information on all things coronavirus. We know things change quickly, including some possible information in this story. For the latest on COVID-19, we encourage our readers to consult online resources like Canada’s public health website, […]

Yahoo News Canada is committed to providing our readers with the most accurate and recent information on all things coronavirus. We know things change quickly, including some possible information in this story. For the latest on COVID-19, we encourage our readers to consult online resources like Canada’s public health website, World Health Organization, as well as our own Yahoo Canada homepage.

As cases of COVID-19 continue to spread around the world, Canadians seem to be increasingly concerned about their health and safety

Currently, there are more than 102,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in Canada and more than 8,500 deaths.

Check back for the latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak in Canada.

For a full archive of the first month of the pandemic, please check our archive of events.

June 25

7:15 p.m.: COVID-19 questions of the day

7:00 p.m.: B.C. NHL rumours and advice for ‘summer loving’

Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s provincial health officer, responded to reports that the NHL is looking at Edmonton and Toronto as possible hub cities over Vancouver. Some reports have indicated it is due to issues around the quarantining process if a player, coach or NHL official gets sick.

Dr. Henry said she has not had direct conversations with the NHL about this being the case but maintains that the health of the players and the people of B.C. is her “primary concern.” She said if this is the case, she is “disappointed” with the decision.

“Under no circumstances was I going to compromise in any way the health of people here in British Columbia and we made that very clear,” Dr. Henry said.

“Our advice and our direction was that if there was a positive case that arose, that we would do what we do with all cases that we have here,” she explained. “We would investigate and…there needs to be contingency in case there were other people identified as ill, and it might mean suspensions of a part of a series for a period of time until that could be done.”

Health minister Adrian Dix could not confirm the reports either, saying it is “a decision for the NHL,” but maintained that Vancouver is still an excellent option for an NHL hub city.

“We just profoundly believe that the strength of what we said to everybody is the strength of public health here in B.C.,” Dix said.

What about ‘summer loving’?

B.C.’s provincial health officer was also asked about people who want to experience some “summer loving” but still need to following physical distancing rules. She responded by saying each person should evaluate their own risks.

“Go outside, meet outside, decide whether this is somebody that you want to include into your bubble,” Dr. Henry said. “I think people need to make their own decisions based on what their own risk is and the risk of those that they are closest to.”

“Love still happens in the time of COVID…start online, start meeting outside before you take the plunge.”

Alberta to bring COVID-19 tests to pharmacies

Tyler Shandro, Alberta’s health minister, announced that people in the province with no COVID-19 symptoms and no known exposure to a case will be able to get tested at community pharmacies.

“Pharmacists are highly trained health professionals and pharmacy’s support the healthcare of residents in their communities everyday,” Shandro said.

This will be a throat swab that will then be sent to Alberta Precision Laboratories for analysis.

“Participating pharmacies will receive specialized training and they will follow strict safety protocols,” Shandro said.

This will begin in the coming days at 20 pharmacies, primarily in Edmonton and Calgary. Anyone with symptoms or anyone who has knowingly been exposed to a COVID-19 case should not go to a pharmacy for a test but should instead take the online assessment and present at one of the existing assessment centres.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, in the lead up to Canada Day next week, asked people in the province to consider taking steps to minimize the risk of potentially being infected or transmitting COVID-19. This includes wearing a mask when physical distancing may not be possible, avoiding high-touch surfaces and frequent hand washing.

“The risk of spread is lower outdoors so if the weather permits, I suggest celebrating outside within your cohort,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “Please avoid barbecues and potlucks because shared containers and serving utensils can be a source of infection.”

“This year it’s a good idea for everyone to bring their own food and drinks, and if anyone disagrees with that you can blame me for that recommendation…COVID-19 loves a party so we can’t let our guard down.”

5:45 p.m.: Bars, hotels, spas, waterparks and more open in Quebec

Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s director of public health, said all business sectors that have still be restricted in the province can resume operations. This includes bars, hotels, waterparks and spas. There are three exceptions, large festivals and events, overnight camps and sports with close contact fighting.

Dr. Arruda stressed that physical distancing of two metres, frequent hand washing and the use of a non-medial facial covering must continue for all people in Quebec.

For bars in particular, Quebec’s director of public health said fewer people will be allowed inside to maintain physical distancing and there will be no standing or dancing. He said people will have to sit down to enjoy their drinks in order to prevent people walking around, possibly spreading the virus.

Dr. Arruda also spoke about the province moving to a weekly public update on case counts in Quebec. He said the number of cases and hospitalizations have come down low enough to transition to less-frequent updates.

Quebec’s director of public health said if there are any resurgences of cases or hospitalizations the province will resume more regular publication of data.

‘Viruses don’t always follow all the rules’

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, stressed younger people or individuals without any underlying health conditions should not be “casual” about possibly contracting COVID-19. Dr. Williams said he has received “anecdotal reports” of post-infection conditions, similar to the “COVID toes” reported in children.

“I wouldn’t be too casual about not caring about getting infected,” he said. “This is a new disease and one can’t just assume they know everything about it…you don’t know what the longer term aspects are.”

As images being to circulate of crowds of people flooding to recently opened patios in the province, Dr. Williams said opening up carefully should be the priority, with particular concern about businesses opening up too quickly.

“It’s open up and be careful, that’s the message,” Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said. “Don’t do it recklessly.”

“Viruses don’t always follow all the rules and one should not be overly confident and take things for granted.”

Manitoba begins plans for fall school year

The Manitoba government has released its plans to reopen schools in September, with teachers returning on Sept. 2 and students on Sept. 8.

School divisions are expected to submit their plans for three different possible scenarios in the fall, in-class learning with near-normal conditions, in-class learning with additional public health measures taken into consideration and remote learning from home with limited use of school facilities.

The final decision on the resumption of school in September will be made by Aug. 1, based on public health directions at the time.

Some of the key components in the framework put forward by the Manitoba government for fall schooling plans include:

  • Ensuring schools can respond and adapt to changing public health orders and guidance

  • Considering the use of cohorts in classrooms, on buses and during activities to limit exposure to COVID-19

  • Looking at ways to accommodate specialty programming and extracurricular activities

  • Considering how school transportation can be safely offered

  • Making arrangements for students, teachers and staff who may be at higher risk of COVID-19

  • Considering learning and assessment needs, as well as any educational gaps for students as a result of the pandemic

2:00 p.m.: Ontario premier criticizes report comparing deaths in long-term care facilities

Ontario Premier Doug Ford criticized a report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information comparing deaths in Canadian long-term care homes to other developed nations.

Ford said he thinks the report is “a little unfair” as it compares Canada to Spain’s 18,000 deaths in long-term care.

The premier also criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his comments on the report, with Trudeau indicating these care in these facilities is provincial jurisdiction and they were not able to provide adequate care, in many cases.

“Put your money where your mouth is,” Ford said. “We’re supposed to be all in this together, let’s be all in this together.”

The premier did go on to say that although he disagrees with the prime minister’s recent comments, the federal government has been “pretty good” in their support to date.

Minister of Health Christine Elliott said in an effort to prepare for a second wave of COVID-19 spread, the province has ordered extra higher-level dosage of the influenza vaccine for seniors, to ensure they can be protected as we head into flu season.

Elliott said Ontario is also going to continue to enhance its testing capacity and conduct regular tests, particularly for seniors and people in long-term care facilities, nursing homes and seniors residences.

‘I just don’t think we’re ready right now’

Premier Ford also commented on calls from the tourism industry to loosen border restrictions. He said he spoke to “an expert” who indicated a second wave will come when Canada starts to welcome people from around the world.

“I know it’s inevitable, we’ve got to do it, I just don’t think we’re ready right now,” Ford said. “You see what’s happening down in the States, you look at Florida, you look at Texas, Arizona, California, I don’t want to be those states.”

“I want to protect the people here in Ontario and I just think we’re opening it up too early if the decision is made on July the 21st.”

12:50 p.m.: ‘Canada needs all the volunteer COVID-19 ‘firefighters’ that we can get’

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam spoke about the importance of Canadians keeping their number of contacts small to assist with contact tracing across the country, saying it is similar to Canada putting out fires.

“Canada needs all the volunteer COVID-19 ‘firefighters’ that we can get,” Dr. Tam said.

She said the “big fire” is out and now “public health firefighters” are able to focus on case investigation and contact tracing to “control the smaller fires.”

Grouping of asymptomatic, COVID-19 positive workers at Ontario farms

Canada’s chief public health officer also commented on the plan announced yesterday by the Ontario government that asymptomatic workers on farms, who have tested positive for COVID-19, can continue working while being kept separate from others.

Dr. Tam said she is not particularly familiar with the specifics of the plan but stressed it’s important to keep people who have tested positive for the virus “isolated” to ensure they do not spread the COVID-19 to others.

“People can begin to get symptoms anytime in that incubation period,” she said. “You need to make sure that you screen them for symptoms and enable them to stop working if they’re not feeling well.”

“We have to ensure that all the conditions are right to support the workers so that they can, if they’re sick, not go to work and be supported for that period.”

Quebec to do weekly updates on COVID-19 cases

The Quebec government has announced the province will limits its COVID-19 updates to once a week, beginning next week, opposed to providing the daily case updates.

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canadian deputy chief public health officer, indicated it is more important for the province to continue to communicate good public health measures for the public to follow.

Dr. Njoo went on to say if there was an outbreak or a significant event related to COVID-19 spread, he expects the province to be transparent and disseminate the information in a public space.

11:10 a.m.: Government launches Canada Student Service Grant

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government is launching the Canada Student Service Grant, as a way to help students develop skills while contributing to their community through volunteer work. Students in university, college or CEGEP can receive a grant of between $1,000 and $5,000 based on the number of hours worked.

The federal government is also investing $40 million to create 5,000 Mitacs internships for post-secondary students. Mitacs, a not-for-profit organization that provides research and training programs, usually supports masters and PhD research students. This additional funding would extend their internship opportunities to including undergraduate students and professional programs, like law and medicine.

Trudeau said an example of these new programs includes allowing MBA students to connect with small businesses facing challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government will also create 10,000 summer job placements for people between the ages of 15 and 30.

“If we want to build a strong and resilient economy, we have to invest in the next generation,” the prime minister said.

Canada needs to better support seniors in long-term care

Trudeau also responded to a recent report that the number of deaths from COVID-19 in long-term care homes is about twice the average of rates from other developed nations.

“What this recent report has shown…is that the job isn’t being adequately done in long-term care centres across the country,” the prime minister said. “We need to…make sure that we are doing better by our seniors.”

He went on to say the federal government is continuing to work with provinces on supporting long-term care facilities but recognizes that these institutions fall under provincial jurisdictions.

June 24

6:15 p.m. COVID-19 questions of the day

5:45 p.m.: B.C. moving into Phase 3 with the resumption of travel operations, film and television productions

B.C. Premier John Horgan announced the province will move into Phase 3 of its reopening plan. 

More opportunities to travel within the province is a key component of this next phase of reopening, with hotels, motels, RV parks, cabins, resorts, hostels, lodges, and backcountry operators to resume service. 

“We believe that if we’re careful about how we approach communities we have not been to in a while, and we visit respecting the views and values of the people in those communities, Phase 3 achievements will be as positive as those in Phase 2,” Horgan said. 

The travel guidelines outlined by B.C. include:

  • Pre-trip planning and research on available resources at arriving destination 

  • Respecting any local travel advisories to isolated and remote communities

  • No travelling for anyone who is sick, and if symptoms develop while travelling – self isolate immediately and contact 811 for guidance and testing

  • Practicing safe physical distancing of two metres at all times 

  • Spending time in small groups and open spaces

  • Practicing good hygiene, including frequent hand washing and cleaning

“Although we’re going to have a summer that’s better than we would have thought perhaps a few months ago, this is not a return to normal,” the B.C. premier said. “We need to make sure that we maintain the practices in our own community as we travel to other communities.”

Dr. Bonnie Henry,  B.C.’s provincial health officer, reminded people in the province that the virus is still a threat and precautions still need to be taken to keep each person safe. She stressed B.C. is not going back to a “pre-COVID normal.”

“This will be a unique year and a unique summer for all of us,” Dr. Henry said. “We are at the point where we need social interaction, we need to be able to have our economic engines going and part of that is travelling, seeing people, going to places.”

The premier said that he has heard and has personally experienced difficulty with booking a spot at key travel sites in B.C. but he said hospitality operators may “perhaps open up areas that they had not planned on.” 

“I think it’s going to be a positive challenge for tourism operators,” Horgan said.

He added now it is “more important than ever” for British Columbians to travel within the province, and support the hospitality and tourism sector.

“The biggest concern I have for our economic restart is the absence of literally hundreds of thousands of international travellers who have historically looked at British Columbia as a place to come and visit,” the premier said.

No exception for 14-day isolation rule for TV, film productions

Phase 3 also allows TV and film productions to operate in the province with a number of safety protocols in place, including staggering work schedules, limiting or restricting visitors to set, reducing the number so cast and crew at filming areas, and assigning hairstylists and makeup artists to one individual at a time.

The premier said he is not aware of any specific requests from the film industry for a type of “cohort” isolation system, similar to what is outlined in the NHL plan for hockey players who would potentially travel to Vancouver. This means international travellers going to B.C. for film or TV productions would still need to self-isolate for 14 days.

“Compared to Hollywood, Hollywood North is looking pretty good on the health front and we have extraordinary talent here…as well as studio capacity to meet the needs of many, many productions,” Horgan said. 

“I don’t think there’s a comparison between the NHL proposal, which was going to be a group of people in one place, as opposed to the film industry, which is dispersed right around British Columbia and has domestic staff that would still be part of any production that takes place.”

Dr. Henry said her “overriding concern” will continue to be ensuring protocols that protect local communities remain in place.

“There is no waving of the 14-day quarantine,” she said. “The overriding importance is the safety factor.”

3:30 p.m.: Atlantic provinces begin ‘bubble’ travel next week, possible dates to loosen restrictions for the rest of Canada

Premiers of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador have agreed to an Atlantic bubble for travel, beginning on July 3.

This would allow residents of each province to move in and out of these regions without having to isolate upon arrival.

Visitors to the Maritimes from other provinces or territories in Canada will still have to quarantine for 14 days.

“As this Atlantic bubble opens it will be closely monitored as we remain committed to working together to support economic and social recovery,” Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball said.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs confirmed no one will be able to leave their province of residence if they have been outside the Atlantic region for any reason, including for essential work, 14 days before the date they intend to travel.

“You will not be able to visit the other provinces if you have been advised to self-isolate or if you are awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test,” Higgs said.

Proof every traveller’s province of residence will have to be presented at the borders and people who are symptomatic should not travel.

“We will be collecting travellers’ information so we can conduct contact tracing in the event of an outbreak,” Higgs said. “Each province will have their own process in place to track and monitor travellers for public health purposes and New Brunswickers will be subject to those rules when visiting other provinces.”

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said the province will continue to work on ensuring that proper public health measures are in place and followed as these travel restrictions are loosened.

“We have to have a broader conversation about the use of masks…at the same time looking at what other potential internal restrictions we could start easing off a little bit,” McNeil said.

Ball said as early as two weeks after the implementation of this Atlantic bubble, the province will look to ease travel restrictions with other areas of Canada.

“We would permit travellers from other parts of Canada starting around Friday, July 17,” Ball said. “This can only be possible if we get favourable results in the days and weeks leading into July 17.”

This sentiment was echoed by other Atlantic premiers, with Nova Scotia’s premier saying the province will be looking to make the same travel permissions around the same time.

“We don’t have a specific date but…we would look at the second to third week of July,” McNeil said. “Two weeks following the July 3 date, we would be reassessing the epidemiology in our region and quite honestly, looking at the rest of Canada.”

Higgs said it is “certainly in the realm of possibility” for New Brunswick to loosen travel rules for more Canadians around mid-to late July.

2:00 p.m.: Most of Windsor-Essex to move into Stage 2, new plan to prevent COVID-19 spread on farms

The Ontario government announced that Windsor-Essex can move to Stage 2 on Thursday, except Leamington and Kingsville.

The province is also implementing a plan to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 at farms, which still continues to be a concern.

This three-point plans includes expanded testing on these farm sites through mobile testing units, in addition to community assessment centres. The provincial government confirmed about 350 asymptomatic workers in the region have been tested at their work site and more mobile testing will be scheduled in the days to come.

Premier Doug Ford stressed that temporary foreign workers receive the same benefits and protections as other workers in the province, including Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) benefits if they do test positive for COVID-19. He said in certain cases they may be eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) through the federal government.

“We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with farmers and our workers,” Ford said.

New public health guidance will be issued to allow asymptomatic workers to continue working, while following measures to reduce possible transmission of COVID-19. Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said this would also allow employers to separate asymptomatic workers, who have tested positive, from others.

“We put out a cluster method where you could take those individuals who are asymptotic and still test positive, and ask them to work separately from the rest because they’re mostly on farms, they’re out on large acreage,” Dr. Williams said. “They would wear a facial covering…the farmer would work to have them sleeping in separate, together, away from the rest of the workforce…so they’re not interacting with the rest of the workers.”

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said these individuals would be monitored and retested within 48 hours, and if any develop signs of symptoms they would be dealt with as a possible case. If the test comes back negative, they would rejoin the rest of the workforce.

Premier Ford also responded to reports that some of these temporary foreign workers are having racist slurs yelled at them by people in the province. The premier said he “just won’t tolerate that.”

“Those vegetables you’re eating, it’s because of these migrant workers…and if you don’t appreciate the migrant workers than you go out in the fields and start working your back off when it’s 100 degrees out in the middle of the summer,” Ford said. “Maybe you should go up and say thank you for working your back off because a lot of people aren’t willing to do the work that they’re doing.”

“They never came here with COVID-19, they self-isolated. The people here, somewhere, somehow gave them COVID-19 then it spread in congregate living.”

June 23

7:00 p.m.: B.C.’s latest modelling data shows a safe increase of personal contacts in the province

B.C. Ministry of Health
B.C. Ministry of Health

Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s chief medical officer of health, presenting new modelling information that indicates the province has been able to manage COVID-19 as it has moved into different stages of reopening.

“I do think we’re in the place where we can move to supporting the safe opening of other parts of our economy…including travel, particularly people travelling within B.C.,” Dr. Henry said, adding that as the province moves to Phase 3 she will be watching for any cases that are not linked to a known source.

Dr. Henry showed how the number of infections that came from unknown exposure, peaking in March, has significantly decreased since that point. 

Imported cases still continue to occur in B.C., which the chief medical officer of health said is primarily from people who are returning to the province from other countries, most recently from India. Dr. Henry said some of these cases have also been in temporary foreign workers with 27 becoming symptomatic during the quarantine period, primarily in workers from Mexico, which she said indicates this isolation measure is working.

B.C. Ministry of Health
B.C. Ministry of Health

Dr. Henry said it’s predicted that the province is at about 65 per cent of normal contact, or pre-COVID-19 contact, which has resulted in a slight increase in new cases in June. She did disclose these are considered “unstable numbers” because the number of cases in the province right now is so low, which can result in a “wide variation” in projection models.

“What this helps us understand is that we are in a place where we are having more contact in our communities,” Dr. Henry said. “But what this also tells us…is that many of those contacts are done in a safe way.”

She said B.C. wants to remain at approximately this level as increasing to 80 per cent of normal contact could lead to a “rapid rebound” of new cases.

B.C. Ministry of Health
B.C. Ministry of Health

Dr. Henry revealed a new projection based on the reproductive number in B.C., which relates to how many people a case will transmit the virus to. She said that value was flattened and brought down below one, but has since increased. Dr. Henry said she would like that number to remain the same or, ideally, be below one.

Moving forward, B.C. will work to make sure that public health still has the resources to “quickly and completely” find people who may be at risk of being exposed to COVID-19.

B.C. Ministry of Health
B.C. Ministry of Health

New tool for COVID-19 detection in communities

The province will also look at monitoring wastewater for COVID-19 RNA sequences as an indicator of when the virus may be introduced in communities. Dr. Henry said this would be particularly helpful in smaller regions of the province.

“In larger communities, as you can imagine, you have to filter and get a small amount to test and it can be a challenge,” Dr. Henry said. “But there is some evidence that we can use it to give a barometer of how much transmission there is in a community.”

“Where I think it’s going to be helpful for us is if we start to see cases, one or two, in a small community or we’re worried about transmission in a community, we can test and use it to see if there is any evidence of community spread.”

Dr. Henry is hoping by the fall the province will have this wastewater monitoring in place.

6:00 p.m.: Alberta to conduct four serology studies

Tyler Shandro, Alberta’s health minister, announced the province is investing $10 million for targeted serology testing in the province.

“We know that there are people who have been infected and were never testing,” Shandro said.

Two studies will test children in Calgary and Edmonton. Shandro said it will start next month and will test these children twice a year until 2022. Another study will regularly test a group of Albertans over the age of 45. 

Labs will conduct a fourth test in the province that randomly evaluates samples of blood collected for other purposes across Alberta. These anonymous samples can be from anyone over the age of 18.

“These four studies will give us a lot more information about how the virus is spreading,” Shandro said.

Transportation delay of 800 samples could lead to COVID-19 retests

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, revealed a group of 800 samples collected last week were delayed in getting tested due to a “transportation issue” and may result in some necessary retesting.

“There were six positive tests in this group and the individuals who tested positive have been contacted, and contact tracing is underway,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “Out of an abundance of caution, a small number of those who tested negative may need to be retested if they were symptomatic.”

“The likelihood of an inaccurate result is extremely low but the lab will be contacting those individuals…and discuss whether they need another test.”

The province is also listing a COVID-19 outbreak at the Misericordia Community Hospital in Edmonton. Dr. Hinshaw said this outbreak is in a single unit and so far six patients and two staff have tested positive.

“Outbreak protocols have already been implemented and all staff or patients who may have been exposed are being tested,” Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said.

Restaurants in Edmonton close, but not an order from public health

Dr. Hinshaw also commented on a number of restaurants closing in Edmonton over the weekend. She said these were “operational decisions” made by the owners and it is an important reminder that the virus is still present.

“We did not require closures and to date, there are no known outbreaks at these locations,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “As part of the guidance we have provided, all restaurants are expected to have procedures in place for rapid response if a staff member or patron develops symptoms of COVID-19.”

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health advised the public that just because someone was at the same establishment as a case does not mean they are “automatically at risk.” She said one case does not require a business to close its operations and ordering a business to close is a “last resort.”

“Determining who is at risk is something that our contact tracing teams closely assess based on when the individual became symptomatic and two days prior to that point,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “Anyone at risk of exposure is immediately contacted, offered testing and required to isolate.”

5:25 p.m.: Saskatchewan moves to second part of Phase 4 next week

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said the province will enter the second part of Phase 4 of reopening on Monday, June 29.

Movie theatres and live event theatres will be able to resume operations, following enhanced cleaning and physical distancing measures. Libraries, museums and art galleries can also reopen, as well as contact sports. Locker rooms, change rooms and showering facilities can reopen, and change rooms at clothing stores can be used at 100 per cent occupancy.

“Our goal continues to be…to reopen as quickly as possible while doing so as safely as possible,” Moe said.

Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province’s chief medical officer of health, reminded people in the province that this is a “new normal” not back to “business as usual.”

He said Saskatchewan is working with neighbouring provinces about a “more permissive approach” to travel rules.

“Do more things locally than further away from home,” Dr. Shahab said, adding that the public should also check ahead of time for rules in a particular area they plan to travel to.

2:30 p.m.: Ontario will not be making mask wearing mandatory for the general public

The Ontario government said it will not be making a mandatory mask order in the province.

Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, she does not believe is it necessary and Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the province does not have enough bylaw officers to police something like that, but stores could be in charge of implemented their own policy.

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said it is also important to remember that different areas of the province are experiencing different COVID-19 circumstances and local public health can use their authority to take additional actions, if required.

“By being vigilant and wearing a mask, by doing your six foot distancing, by maintaining your circles…we actually may be able to flatten a secondary wave,” Dr. Williams said.

‘They need to be responsible’

Premier Ford commented on reports of people not physical distancing at beaches in Ontario, going so far as large groups getting in physical fights.

Ford has a message for young people who may have participated, “you think you can’t catch COVID, you can catch COVID.”

The premier said 1,394 people between the ages of 0-19 have been infected with the virus and 9,006 people between the ages of 20-39 have been COVID-19 positive. Most cases have been in people ages 40-59, with 9,910 people infected.

“You get a few cold pops in you and you start going wild, that’s unacceptable,” Ford said. “They need to be responsible…The vast majority are.”

1:00 p.m.: ‘I wish I could say we were close to the finish line’

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said “the marathon continues” to combat COVID-19 in Canada.

“I wish I could say we were close to the finish line or even half way, but that simply isn’t the case and no one can say for sure how far off we are,” Dr. Tam said. “We’ve got a very clear motivation to keep going and there is absolute certainty that giving up is not an option.”

She said the arrival of the summer season has not made COVID-19 “go away” as several populations around the world are still seeing high infection rates.

For people coming into Canada, primarily from the U.S. which continues to have a significant daily COVID-19 case counts, Dr. Tam said additional testing measures at the border are not going to be implemented at this time.

Canada’s chief public health officer said immunity is not yet “well characterized” and antibody testing will not be relied upon until more information on human immunity is known. Additionally, the PCR test (Polymerise Chain Reaction testing detects the genetic information of the virus called the RNA) for COVID-19 only provides a result for that moment in time and some individuals may be infected with the virus but can still have a negative test at that moment.

“There are limitations to lab testing,” Dr. Tam said.

She added people in Canada should continue to follow the two metre physical distance rule, even as some jurisdictions more to decrease that distance.

“There are droplets that are going to fall between one to two metres,” Dr. Tam said, adding that a one-metre distance would avoid “a whole bunch” of droplets but two metres would allow someone to avoid more.

11:20 a.m.: ‘Atlantic bubble’ for travel continues to be discussed

Dr. Heather Morrison, the chief public health officer of Prince Edward Island, said premiers in the Maritimes are committed to coordinating an “Atlantic bubble” for travel. This would allow people from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and P.E.I. to travel between each province without having to self-isolate.

“It’s important that Islanders know their risks, and it’s still overall recommended that we think small and think local,” Dr. Morrison said.

Self-isolation would continue for people from outside of Atlantic provinces and screening would still continue at all points of entry.

“I think it would be important to start with Atlantic Canada and see how that goes,” Dr. Morrison said. “We’ve always said a bubble can be fragile by its very nature.”

“At this point we’re focused on Atlantic Canada and trying to establish a date for that.”

P.E.I. is set to enter Phase 4 of reopening on Friday, which will allow organized gatherings of up to 50 people, facial and piercing services ,and sleepovers with children from different household (limited to one child or siblings from the same household with beds at least two metres apart).

Accommodations for non-residents, like campgrounds, hospitality homes, inns, and bed and breakfasts will also reopen.

The chief public health officer also said some establishments will be able to have multiple gatherings of 50 people, for example large churches with multiple rooms that can safely hold 50 people physically distant.

There should be no mixing of the two groups and plans need to be reviewed by the public health office.

June 22

7:30: COVID-19 questions of the day

7:00 p.m.: B.C. to move into next phase of reopening ‘soon’

Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s provincial health officer, said she expect the province will move onto Phase 3 “soon” and the premier will be providing more information on that this week.

In terms of tourism in B.C., Dr. Henry said “respectful” travel will be important moving forward, as some areas are eager to welcome visitors while others are still doing their own assessment to determine what is safe for them, and may not be ready to welcome travellers this summer.

She said as measures continue to be loosened, and more businesses and services open up, it is “likely” the province will see more COVID-19 cases and it is critically important that everyone “keep bubbles small.”

Dr. Henry said B.C. continues to determining effective serology tests for antibodies. The province has started two studies to look at population level infections but there is also a national blood spot testing being conducted that B.C. will participate in, through the immunity task force. She said 140,000 people will be tested across the country.

When looking at antibodies, Dr. Henry said local health officials are also looking at what it means to have antibodies and how long they last, something that is being researched and studied around the world.

B.C.’s provincial health officer also commented on the sale merchandise with her face as a way to raise money for charity. She said she “absolutely did not see it coming” but she is pleased the money is going to charity.

“If using my likeness can help with that then that’s a good thing,” Dr. Henry said, also thanking people in the province who have given her beautiful art and masks.

Manitoba creates outdoor visitation shelters at personal care homes

Manitoba’s health minister, Cameron Friesen, announced beginning on Tuesday, indoor visits will be accommodated at personal care homes.

He stressed this is “not business as usual” and measures like hand washing, screening and non-medical mask wearing will be in place.

These visits will not be for anyone, but will be for a a small number of designated, indoor visitors. Most will be scheduled for a specific time.

Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer for Shared Health, said visits may be suspended at anytime, without notice, if there is an outbreak in the care home or in the community.

The province will also work to create outdoor, all-season shelters near personal care homes to allow residents to have visits with their loved ones.

Friesen said he expects these shelters to be constructed by August and more than one visitor would be allowed in that space, including someone from the care home who would facilitate moving the resident to the space and back.

The health minister called this a “semi-permanent solution” that allows people in the province to have an increased connected with loved ones in these facilities.

3:45 p.m.: Looking for cases to drop below 150 in Ontario

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said he is urging local public health units to issue order to farms that would require them to keep a record of workers, including temporary foreign workers, domestic workers and individuals from temp agencies.

As Windsor-Essex remain in Stage 1 of the provincial reopening strategy, Dr. Williams indicated there were instances where domestic workers were not scanned or screened effectively for COVID-19 in this region.

Domestic workers will have to report a history of no infection and a negative COVID test 48 hours before commencing work. Temporary foreign workers will continue to isolate for 14-day upon arrival.

As the rest of the Ontario will be in Stage 2 on Wednesday, the chief medical officer of health said the province will be monitoring the case numbers but he hopes to see them down below 150.

“I am concerned that some are not being careful and they do need to stick to the program,” Dr. Williams said.

He indicated moving to Stage 3 in some regions would not depend on Windsor-Essex but health officials will “see how the province does over the next week of two” before making any further determinations.

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, said more cases have been found in young people in the province, with many presenting as asymptomatic or with very mild symptoms.

Dr. Yaffe reminded young people that even if they are not concerned about becoming critically ill, they need to be vigilant to protect their parents, grandparents or anyone close to them with an underlying health condition.

1:25 p.m.: Toronto, Peel moves into Stage 2 of reopening

The Ontario government announced Toronto and Peel regions are moving into Stage 2 of reopening on Wednesday.

Some of the businesses and services that can resume in Stage 2 include:

  • Outdoor dine-in services at restaurants, bars and other establishments, including patios, curbside, parking lots and adjacent properties

  • Select personal and personal care services with the proper health and safety measures in place, including tattoo parlours, barber shops, hair salons and beauty salons

  • Shopping malls under existing restrictions, including food services reopening for take-out and outdoor dining only;

  • Outdoor-only recreational facilities and training for outdoor team sports, with limits to enable physical distancing

  • Film and television production activities, with limits to enable physical distancing

  • Weddings and funerals, with limits on social gatherings to 10 people

At this point, Windsor-Essex will remain in Stage 1 but premier Doug Ford said the province is doing “everything in our power” to move the region into the next stage of reopening.

“Farmers just aren’t cooperating, they aren’t sending out the people to get tested,” Ford said. “We got to bang our heads off the wall and figure out why, it’s good for the farmers, good for your workers, good for your food supply chain on safety.”

“I guess when my plea was happening last week too, it was just kind of brushed off…it’s not fair to the people of Windsor, it’s not fair to other people doing what you’re doing to people.”

Ford highlighted Ontario will be proactively testing farms with mobile testing units in the region.

There will also be joint inspections of farms with federal authorities to review the working and living conditions of temporary foreign workers, and health and safety guidelines will be translated in Spanish and posted on the Ontario government’s website.

The province is providing $15 million through the Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection program, which can be used to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE), put up physical barriers, make housing modifications or provide alternate housing or other measures.

Ford apologized to the people of Windsor-Essex that the whole region is being left behind due to the farming community in the area, indicating it is “not fair” but needs to be done to keep the people of Ontario safe.

1:00 p.m.: ‘Much more’ needs to be done to protect temporary foreign workers

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, spoke about the deaths of temporary foreign worker in Ontario, saying “much more” needs to be done to protect these individuals.

Dr. Tam said congregate living conditions, fears that having symptoms means they won’t get paid and language barriers can all lead to an increased risk of spread amongst temporary foreign workers.

Canada’s chief public health officer said it is her understand that the 14-day isolation rules was followed but “perhaps” they came in with unsuspecting illness.

She also stressed that these workers do mix with people in the surrounding communities and it is “definitely a possibility” that they were infected by someone in their local area as well.

More public servants to work remotely

Jean-Yves Duclos, President of the Treasury Board, said public service employees will gradually begin going back to work in offices, but the COVID-19 crisis has revealed that these workers can operate remotely.

“I do expect that because of the important learning experience that we have made there will be more agility and more flexibility when it comes to teleworking,” Duclos said.

He added that public service has been “nimble” and “quick,” and working remotely has allowed these employees to serve Canadians “very efficiently.”

11:40 a.m.: Trudeau cautious to loosen travel rules, promises consequences for unsafe conditions for temporary foreign workers

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked about any considerations Canada is making to loosen public health guidance on international travel.

The prime minister said he understands there are many tourism operators that would like to see international travellers return to Canada but said moving forward “too quickly” could result in a second wave of infection.

Trudeau said there are some countries where the COVID-19 crisis is less serious, but also places where the virus is still very active, which needs to be carefully considered.

“We need to make sure we are keeping Canadians safe, first and foremost,” the prime minister said.

Public health rules not followed by employers of temporary foreign workers

Trudeau spoke about Mexico continuing to send temporary foreign workers to Canada, after three workers died from COVID-19 in Ontario.

The prime minister said migrant workers are an important part of Canada’s food supply chain but the country must ensure the rules are followed.

“Every single person who works in Canada deserves to do so in a safe environment,” Trudeau said. “Unfortunately, that hasn’t always happened.”

The prime minister admitted some of the public health rules were not followed by employers in Canada and the government “will ensure there are consequences.”

June 19

6:30 p.m.: COVID-19 questions of the day

6:15 p.m.: Alberta’s top doctor ‘hoped’ more people would download contact tracing app

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, spoke about the province’s contact tracing app and how it may integrate with the prime minister’s recent announcement about a national product. Currently, around five per cent of people in the province have downloaded the ABTraceTogether app.

“I hoped that we would have a high proportion of Albertans downloading it,” Dr. Hinshaw said.

She also indicated she is aware that the app is particularly “inconvenient” for Apple product users because it must run in the foreground with the phone turned on.

“I would, as always, encourage all Albertans to download it, it will be more effective the more people who have it on their phones,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “We are in discussion with the federal government with the new announcement of the federal app that they’re putting in place and our goal is to have an interoperability between the different apps.”

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said the province is seeing more cases shifting to community settings, including two recent funerals that led to a combined 24 cases, with “many more” close contacts possibly exposed.

“This shows how easily the infection can spread,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “The more active cases we have in the community, the higher risk gatherings become.”

“I remain concerned about any large gatherings where distancing is not followed, where masking is not used.”

She also commented on recent reports that the two-metre physical distance can be shorted to one metre, or 1.5 metres, adding that any changes to this rules would have to be done on a national level to limit confusion for Canadians.

“The evidence coming out of England and other evidence that’s being produced would be of interest, it is of interest, we’re looking at it,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “At the same time, I think what is important to remember is that there is no one distance that will be 100 per cent protective at all times and in all circumstances.”

New Brunswick updates symptoms for COVID-19 testing, moves into Yellow reopening phase

New Brunswick has adapted and expanded its testing strategy across the province. Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, anyone with the following symptoms can be tested for COVID-19:

  • Fever above 38°C or signs of fever (such as chills)

  • New cough or worsening chronic cough

  • Sore throat

  • Runny nose

  • Headache

  • New onset of fatigue

  • New onset of muscle pain

  • Diarrhea

  • Loss of sense of taste or loss of sense of smell

  • In children, purple markings on the fingers or toes

Most of the province has entered into the Yellow phase on Friday, which lifted the self-isolation rule for New Brunswick residents returning from work in another Canadian province or territory, indoor visits with one visitor at a time for residents of long-term care facilities are allowed, and the number of people gathering in controlled venues is lifted, including churches, swimming pools and indoor recreational facilities.

The Campbellton region, Zone 5, still remains one step behind the rest of the province.

If the virus infection numbers remain manageable, the following restrictions will be lifted on June 26:

  • All remaining businesses can open with appropriate distancing and sanitizing, and operational plans respecting Public Health guidelines

  • Zone 5 will move fully into the Yellow level with the rest of the province provided the outbreak continues to be managed

2:00 p.m.: Ontario school board preparing for three scenarios

The Ontario government announced it wants school boards in the province plan for reopening in September.

School boards are being asked to prepare for three possible scenarios, depending on the public health situation at the time:

  1. Normal school day routine with enhanced public health protocols – Students going to school every day, in classes that reflect standard class size regulations.

  2. Modified school day routine – An adapted model to allow for physical distancing and cohorts of students. School boards are asked to maintain a limit of 15 students in a typical classroom at one time, and students will remain in contact only with their classmates and a single teacher for as much of the school day as possible. This model would require alternate day or alternate week delivery to a segment of the class at one time.

  3. At home learning – Should the school closure be extended, or some parents choose not to send their child back to school, school boards need to be prepared to offer remote education. It should be delivered online to the greatest extent possible, including the establishment of minimum expectations for students to have direct contact with their teacher at the same time on a regular basis, also known as synchronous learning. Synchronous learning can be used as part of whole class instruction, in smaller groups of students, and/or in a one-on-one context.

“The fact is, this virus remains a threat, and the health and safety of our children will always remain top of mind,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said.

Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, said the province has had “extensive consultation” with parents, students, educators and staff on how to move forward.

“What we have heard loud and clear from parents is that you want to be in the driver’s seat and ultimately have a choice,” Lecce said. “They want and will have an option to enroll their child in class or in a strengthened online learning experience.”

The minister of education said there will be isolation protocols in place, should a student have symptoms in the class, and regular screening for symptoms will be a requirement.

“There will be spaces set aside within schools, they will be isolated and safe, and monitored,” Lecce said. “The requirement will be for parents…to pick up their child should they be sick.”

“We don’t want to create exposure for other children.”

He added if a child does end up testing positive for COVID-19, the cohort model proposed will limit the extent of the exposure.

When asked about the impact the hybrid model will have on parents who have full-time jobs but may not have childcare options, Lecce said the province’s intention is to return to day-to-day in-class leaning but the safety of students remains the priority for the government.

“We recognize the consequence that will have on you but we do not ever want to see a scenario where a school has more students in it or more kids within a school class that can create risk to themselves and to your family,” the education minister said.

The provincial government will be providing additional funding to all school boards, including $736 million in public education for the 2020-21 school year, through the Grants for Student Needs program. Mental health funding has increased by an additional $10 million to help hire more psychologists, social workers and psychotherapists, and an additional $15 million will be provided for additional technology for students.

1:00 p.m.: ‘I think the coronavirus has taught us how much we depend on them’

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland commented on grocery businesses cancelling the pay raise they were providing to employees. She did not say these companies need to reinstate the pay but stressed how much Canadians depend of grocery workers.

“I hope that one of the things that this pandemic has taught us is that people who do some of the work, which is most essential for out actual, our literal survival are among the lowest paid people in our country,” Freeland said. “I think the coronavirus has taught us how much we depend on them.”

“People working in grocery stores came out and worked so that we would be able to keep food in our fridges and on our tables. I’m sure that was very frightening for many of them.”

The deputy premier added grocery companies feeling they are able to cancel this pay increase does suggest Canadians still have an incentive to go to work, despite calls that federal government aid has caused businesses to face problems getting their employees back to work.

“I think the fact that grocery stores now feel able to bring the wages back down suggests that there isn’t a powerful disincentive to work out there and that is a reminder to us all that supporting Canadian workers and supporting the Canadians who can’t find jobs right now is a really essential thing to do,” Freeland said.

NHL hub city plan approved by Canada

She also commented on the government’s approval on the NHL’s plan to have a hub city in Canada. The deputy prime minister said the provincial health officers have worked in close collaboration with the league on this plan, but stressed it will be very important for players to work closely with these local officials and follow their instructions.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said protecting the safety of Canadians was the most important objective when working with the NHL.

“Of course, these things have to be reviewed all the time because even the activity of COVID-19 is changing as we speak in Canada but also in other areas,” Tam said. “The collective review is that there are very, very robust protocols that are being proposed.

“In addition, there is to be no impact on the actual resources, like testing resources, on the local community.”

11:45 a.m.: 500 green jobs and training opportunities for young people

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government is creating 500 green jobs and training opportunities for young people in STEM, in the energy forestry, mining, earth sciences and clean technology sectors.

These internships will last between six months to a year, as part of an initiative help students and recent graduates get through the COVID-19 crisis, and assist sectors that “need an extra hand.”

After Trudeau’s 14th weekly call with provincial and territorial leaders, he said a core part of the discussion was the federal government’s proposal to provide $14 billion to “address critical needs across the country over the coming six month.”

“This is money that could be used to offer more childcare spaces, increase testing and contact tracing, and keep people safe on the job,” the prime minister said. “We want to work with the provinces and territories to implement these measures as soon as possible and make sure we don’t lose the progress we’ve made.”

Trudeau said the federal government understand municipalities have been incurring additional costs during the COVID-19 pandemic and has proposed additional funding, but the provinces should do the same.

Trudeau, a father of three children, reminded Canadians that although restrictions have been loosened that will make it easier for many to celebrate Father’s Day on Sunday, he urged the public to ensure that they continue to follow their local public health guidelines closely.

“This is the best way to keep you, your dad and the whole family safe,” the prime minister said.

June 18

6:30 p.m: COVID-19 questions of the day

6:45 p.m.: ‘It’s not something that actually helps us a whole lot with contact tracing’

Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s provincial health officer, commented on the federal government’s announcement about a national contact tracing app, which she said is not “an answer” for this type of work.

“It is a notification app, it’s not something that actually helps us a whole lot with contact tracing,” Dr. Henry said. “We know that the important part of contract tracing is having that conversation with a public health person who knows the right questions to ask and can tell you what you need to know.”

“Where it can facilitate…is if people are in environments like crowds when people have that app on their phone too.”

New cases create a “challenging” situation for health officials

Dr. Henry also addressed one recent COVID-19 case in an adult who worked at an independent school. This individuals was involved in “several different roles,” including teaching. 

She confirmed no children have been involved but the school has stopped in-class learning for the remainder of the school year. The “small number of close contacts” to this individual are now in isolation.

“This is not a surprise,” Dr. Henry said. “It is something we were preparing for.”

She also spoke about a recent cases at the Mission Memorial Hospital and a related one at the Tabor long-term care home in Abbotsford. Those two facilities, in addition to cases in the Maple Hill long-term care facility, are all linked.

Public health teams are at all three sites and an investigation has begun.

“As these new healthcare outbreaks demonstrate this virus can quickly spread, and often undetected, and that is the challenge that we face,” Dr. Henry said. “We can have very mild illness, or early on in the illness, or just before symptoms start, people may not know that they are infectious to others.”

“We have no yet, nor is it likely that we will be able to eliminate the virus completely from our communities in the near term.”

B.C.’s provincial health officer said the new COVID-19 events of the past days have been “challenging” and she is “cautiously optimistic” about continuing to loosen some of the remaining restrictions.

5:30 p.m.: More definitive answers on immunity needed

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said the province is working with the federal government to establish serology testing, in order to better understand immunity to the virus.

He said the current test detects RNA fragments of the virus in the nasal passage, but doesn’t provide information on immunity.

“Some people get these so-called second cases, you’re following a test that doesn’t tell you if you’ve got a full blood infection,” Dr. Williams said. “That’s why serology is being looked into, to see evidence of a legitimate infection in the past and has immunity.”

He said there is “a good chance” someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 does have immunity but an effective serology test would be able to provide more clarity.

Dr. Williams also said it would like to see the health system less reliant on faxes. Currently, lab tests in some areas are scanned and faxed but if the system could be digitally linked into the public health system it would be more efficient.

“I think their time has played out and we need to move on to other technology,” he said.

New gathering limits in Nova Scotia

Gathering limits in Nova Scotia have changed, now allowing groups of up to 10 people to gather without physical distancing.

Additionally, people in each group do not need to be exclusive to each other, although it is “strongly encouraged” by provincial health officials.

These new guidelines replace the family “bubbles” concept.

Gatherings of up to 50 are allowed but people must maintain a two metre physical distance. This rules applies to social events, faith gatherings, sports and physical activity, weddings and funerals, and arts and culture events like theatre performances, dance recitals, festivals and concerts.

1:45 p.m.: ‘If we trace, we can track it’

Ontario has provided additional details on the contact tracing COVID Alert app. The province states the goal of this new technology is to:

  • Connect with cases, and with all individuals who have had close contact with a positive case, within 24 hours of being identified

  • Direct all close contacts to self-isolate for up to 14 days

  • Follow up with close contacts every day for the duration of their self-isolation

  • Advise testing of all appropriate close contacts.

“If we test, we can find it. If we trace, we can track it. If we have those two things we can contain it,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said.

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, stressed this is an “adjunct” measure for contact management, which will be particularly helpful to assist people with recalling where they may have been exposed to COVID-19.

“If you had something that prompted you, you would make a mental note of that,” Dr. Williams said. “We want people to remember…seven, eight, nine days, ago now that you have symptoms.”

The chief medical officer of health also indicated the province continues to work with modellers to provide some guidance on the possible future of the virus in Ontario, including how to face a second wave.

“I still think it’s possible that by working hard on this in the summer and we do all the right things in the right way, we could start working at flattening a second wave,” Dr. Williams said. “I don’t know if we can eliminate it, that would be idealistic, but I think we could do that.”

1:00 p.m.: Each province can choose to be part of the national contact tracing app

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland provided additional clarification on the contract tracing app, initially being piloted in Ontario. She said although it will begin in one province, the goal is that all parts of Canada will implement this national app

“It’s going to be up to each province and the local public health authorities as to whether or not they want to be part of this and provinces, many of them, have been doing terrific work on their own apps and technology platforms,” Freeland said.

“Having said that, I think we all appreciate that having a national app in a country where Canadians do travel could be really, really helpful.”

She reiterated the prime minister’s statement the privacy has been involved in the process, stressing the plan is for this to be an anonymous contact tracing strategy.

“There will be no geotagging and no data collection,” Freeland said. “We believe it is important to work hard to protect people’s privacy and we believe that this app does that.”

12:00 p.m.: Canada to roll out contact tracing app

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government is working with Shopify, Blackberry, Government of Ontario and the Canadian Digital Service on a national contact tracing mobile application.

Testing of the app will begin in Ontario and will be available across the country in early July.

Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 can have their status uploaded to the network through an anonymous randomized code, associate with their phone.

When someone has been in proximity with a positive case, they will be alerted and can then call public health for next steps.

Trudeau said there are three different sections of this plan:

  • There is the national app that can be used even if someone travels to another part of Canada.

  • The second part is the national database of randomized codes

  • The third part are the local health services, which will ensure anyone who could have been exposed to COVID-19 can get guidance on how to keep themselves, and others, safe.

“It’s an extra tool that helps people move forward with confidence that we’re going to be able to track and trace more of the exposure or the potential sharing of the COVID-19 virus around the country,” Trudeau said. 

The prime minister recognized that uptake of a contact tracing app has impacted effectiveness in other countries. He said some of the challenges of other versions include the need for the app to stay open on someone’s phone, but updates on Google and Apple’s operational systems allows these apps to work in the background.

“Any amount of people that download it will be useful for that person and for our society,” Trudeau said. “It’s certain that if we can talk about a 50 per cent uptake, for example, or more, then it becomes extraordinarily useful.”

“It’ll actually allow us to have a better sense of when there are spikes or resurgences of the virus in a particular area or not, because more people will be getting that notification and contacting their local public health authorities.”

The prime minister said the privacy commissioner has been consulted for this app, which is why it functions “entirely on an anonymized basis,” not storing any phone numbers and location data.

“It’s super simple, it’s super secure,” Trudeau said.

The prime minister said the federal government is working on integration into the local public health services and “a number of provinces” have moved forward on that.

June 17

7:00 p.m.: COVID-19 questions of the day

6:45 p.m.: Alberta recalls COVID-19 test tubes after leaking

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, responded to reports that there were COVID-19 tests that were leaking and spoiled.

Dr. Hinshaw said she learned about this earlier in the week and as she understands, some of the test tubes that had been used in sample collection showed up at the lab with some leakage. 

“There are always a very small number of…samples that may need to be redone for various reasons,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “The lab looked at the particular type of test tube that was being used…and there were four different types that would cause more leaks than they typically would see so they did recall those.”

She said anyone who had a COVID-19 test involving that leaking was contact and offered the chance to have another test done.

“No people were put at risk from the perspective of the leaking, the problem has been solved by recalling those test tubes that seem to have a high proportion of leaks,” Dr. Hinshaw said.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health also spoke about the anxiety and fear that many people may be facing during this the COVID-19 crisis.

“Anxiety and fear can be triggered by change and uncertainty, and we have had a great deal of both in the last few months,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “Learning to live with uncertainty is one of the hardest things that any of us can do.”

She referenced findings released by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health indicate COVID-19 has significantly impacted the mental health of Canadians, with 1 in 5 saying they have experienced moderate to severe anxiety in the past weeks.

“If you are feeling this way, you are definitely not alone,” Dr. Hinshaw said, stressing people should sleep well, connect safely with loved ones and meditate to help combat this anxiety. 

For anyone interested in travelling outside of Alberta, but within Canada this summer, Dr. Hinshaw stressed health officials continue to recommend that travel plans stay within the province, for the time being.

“It would be important for Albertans to look at the province, if they are considering going somewhere for an essential trip,” she said. “There are some provinces that do require 14 day quarantine…and there are also provinces that are not allowing non-residents to enter.” 

“I’m not currently making any distinction between travelling by air plane or by car.”

B.C. government wants public feedback on economic recovery plans

B.C. Premier John Horgan wants people in the province to share their feedback to assist with future economic recovery plans.

“How do British Columbians participate in that recovery, where do they see themselves fitting in and more importantly, how can their family participate in a more meaningful way,” Horgan said.

The provincial government is asking people in B.C. to go online to answer an online survey and provide their feedback. Virtual town halls will also be organized to help gather this information from the public.

“Everyone says, how can I help, and I want to take advantage of that,” Horgan said. “I think our success has been a result of people coming together, recognizing that regardless of where we live, regardless of our economic status, people had to take COVID-19 on together.”

When asked when the public can expect to learn about what the government has decided on economic recovery, Horgan stated it is important to note this is not a “six-week holding period.”

“We’re working with the federal government to address the extraordinary challenges of unemployment during this time,” the B.C. premier said. “It’s an invitation to regular people to be part of the solution and I think that’s appropriate.”

Anger at outsiders

Horgan also responded to reports of British Columbians “lashing out” at people in the province who have license plates from outside the province, specifically one incident which involved a Black man.

“British Columbia is not the place where racism should find foothold,” Horgan said. “I’m committed to making sure that anti-racism programs are put in place.”

“The story about an individual, on Vancouver Island of all places, to be ridiculed because of the colour of his skin and the license plate on the car he drives is unacceptable to me, and I’m absolutely confident the overwhelming majority of British Columbians feel exactly the same way.”

Outside of this particular circumstance, Horgan said British Columbians need to be “kind,” “calm” and “safe,” and should not judge or discriminate against anyone in the province.

4:00 p.m.: Manitoba finalizes its Phase Three reopening plan

Manitoba has announced its plan for Phase Three of its reopening plan, which will come into effect on June 21.

This comes after the province asked Manitobans to provide their advice on the proposed measures that will be loosened and still in place during this phase.

Key changes made following public feedback include:

  • Removing the maximum capacity of 300 people at any site provided the gathering can be physically divided into sub-groups of 50 or fewer indoors or 100 or fewer outdoors, to a maximum 30 per cent of usual capacity

  • Allowing people from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, and people living in the area of the northwestern Ontario (west of Terrace Bay) to visit Manitoba without having to self-isolate for 14 days

  • Ensuring those travelling to northern Manitoba must continue to respect any restrictions that have been put in place by local communities and First Nations

  • Lifting self-isolation requirements on a case-by-case basis where sectors propose and provide satisfactory plans to address public health requirements for necessary travel

  • Lifting capacity limits for restaurants, bars, beverage rooms, brew pubs, microbreweries and distilleries, as long as tables and seating are arranged so there is a temporary or physical barrier, or two metres of separation between people sitting at different tables

“While we can take pride in the progress we have made, we must remain vigilant,” Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said. “We’ll continue to review the data and rely on the advice from healthcare experts”

2:30 p.m.: ‘We need to work together’

Three months after Ontario initially declared a state of emergency, Premier Doug Ford spoke about what he has learned since the pandemic began and how the province has responded, stressing the importance of all officials working collaboratively.

“We just came together as a team,” Ford said. “Doesn’t matter what political stripe…we need to work together.”

“I just ask other people from other parties…work with us, it’s easy to sit back and fire shots but it’s not worth it.”  

Ford also spoke about plans for students in Ontario to return to in-class schooling in September, following The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto releasing a report outlining the importance of schools reopening.

“We have to accept that COVID-19 will stay with us for a long time. We must move on with certain activities in our lives, such as schooling, while keeping in mind that there are a lot of ways to mitigate risk,” Dr. Ronald Cohn, President and CEO of SickKids said in a statement. “Not opening schools in September would continue to have a negative impact on the mental, behavioural and developmental health of children.”

The premier said the province will continue to consult with teachers and unions on the future plans for schools, while Minister of Education Stephen Lecce works on rolling out a plan.

“I’m not going to risk anything that puts our kids in jeopardy,” Ford said.

He added teachers who are older or immunocompromised, and may not feel entirely comfortable returning to the classroom, will have their jobs “protected.” 

Questions about promised pandemic pay

There have also been reports of hundreds of thousands of Ontario frontline workers still waiting for pandemic pay promised months ago, while some hospital workers don’t even qualify for the $4 hourly raise.

“It’s a slap in the face to all of those folks who are working day in and day out to make sure that we have what we need,” Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said.

Ford maintained that 375,000 will receive this pandemic pay and he wishes he could provide these funds to more frontline workers.

“As far as I’m concerned, everyone deserves it,” the Ontario premier said. “We’ve spent every penny that the feds have given us. I wish I could pay everyone, I really do.”

‘We want the borders closed’

Ford also commented on the possibility of reopening the Canada-U.S. border after the latest 30 day extension. He said he is particularly concerned about neighbouring states still seeing a large amount of COVID-19 spread.

“We want the borders closed,” the premier said. “Let’s see where we’re at when it comes to that point.”

With regards to hosting an NHL “hub city,” Ford indicated it is the federal government’s choice if exceptions will be made for players but the league has “gone above and beyond” what they need to do, including plans to test players everyday.

“Personally, I would like to see the NHL but I’m not making that call,” Ford said.

1:15 p.m.: Comparing COVID-19 in Canada and the U.S.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, commented on regions in Canada reopening while other countries, particularly the U.S., continue to see a surge in COVID-19 cases.

“We do see all of these kind of trends as a warning signal for us really,” Dr. Tam said. “Reminding Canadians that the virus is still around, very much around.”

She stressed all provinces and territories are reopening with the core principles to approach this slowly and cautiously. Dr. Tam indicated public health teams across have been able to rapidly investigate any new cases.

Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, said it is particular difficult to compare national responses to COVID-19 around the world.

“It’s very different to compare country by country situations because systems are different,” Hajdu said. “For example, in Canada we have a public healthcare system, which means that people can get access to healthcare free of charge and they have supports, such as the newly extended CERB, to be able to take time off if they’re ill and isolate properly.”

Should Canadians leave the country?

For Canadians thinking about going to another country, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canadians are not “forbidden” from the leaving the country and all Canadians can return home, but public health guidelines should be followed to protect each individual, their families and neighbours.

“We’ll evaluate things on an ongoing basis,” Dr. Tam said. “We do know that as other countries are opening up there’s every possibility that Canadians will travel more but of course if they do that they need to be fully cognizant of what is risk is.”

She also stressed the 14-day mandatory isolation when coming to Canada is important to follow.

‘Important for Canada and it’s important for the world’

Freeland also spoke about why Canada should get a seat on the UN Security Council, saying it is “important for Canada and it’s important for the world,” particularly during the COVID-19 crisis.

“The world is at a real hinge moment, a time when Canada and all countries in the world are facing some profound and unprecedented challenges,” Freeland said. “Even as we are facing these profound, truly global challenges, we are also living though a time when the rules-based international order that was founded after the Second World War is under a great deal of stress.”

“It is so important…for Canada to play a role in supporting that rules based international order, in supporting multilateralism and in making it fit for purpose for the 21st century.”

12:00 p.m.: Federal economic snapshot to come on July 8

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government will provide an “economic and fiscal snapshot” on July 8.

The prime minister said this will be a look at where the Canada’s economy is right now, how Canada’s response compares to other countries and what can be expected in the coming months.

Trudeau said a full economic and fiscal update would be “unrealistic” at the moment because it would require looking too far into the future.

UN Security Council vote to come

The prime minister also spoke about the UN Security Council vote occurring on Wednesday, reiterating that this is a “unique opportunity” for Canada to get a seat to better engage with international partners.

He added that whatever the result is, Canada will continue to engage and provide assistance on the world stage but is “optimistic” about the situation.

“It is a time for medium-sized countries who can have a big voice to step up,” Trudeau said. “I know that Canada has a particular ability so convene voices from around the world.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Bloc-Quebecois leader Yves-François Blanchet commented on Parliament putting “special rules” in place to modify Parliament sittings, which he said the Liberals are trying to make last as long as possible.

“The lockdown is being somewhat released on a daily basis…so those rules are not needed anymore,” Blanchet said. “We see that the Liberals are attempting to make the special rules last as long as they can in order to handle issues like if they were something between a majority government and the rule of a king.”

The prime minister was asked to respond to these statements, stressing that there is a minority Parliament and decisions are made on a consensus basis.

“Three different parties came together to make a determination of what Parliament would do, that’s how Parliament functions,” Trudeau said. “If every time something doesn’t go their way an opposition party cries, oh no it’s a dictatorship all of a sudden, it’s sort of irresponsible and it undermines, I think, the strength of our democracy.”

$500 million for research, AI

The federal government will also provide $500 million through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s grants program for research of viruses, developing AI and chemical engineering discoveries.

The Canadian Fish and Seafood Opportunities Fund is also being reopened to help producers access new markets and reach new consumers. On Monday, the Canadian Seafood Stabilization Fund opens to support the acquisition of personal protective equipment (PPE) to keeping producers safe and increase storage capacity.

June 16

6:50 p.m.: COVID-19 questions of the day

6:45 p.m.: ‘Once this virus is anywhere, it’s a risk everywhere’

Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s provincial health officer, commented on the recent COVID-19 outbreaks in Beijing, connected to a wholesale food market, and New Zealand, linked to people who travelled from the U.K.

“Once this virus is anywhere, it’s a risk everywhere,” Dr. Henry said. “We all need to continue to be aware that this is going to be in our communities for some time.”

Related to Beijing in particular, Dr. Henry said she is watching the situation “very carefully” and although transmission has not been linked to a food product directly, it has been linked to the people who are around food products, and these cases need to be discovered quickly.

“We cannot get rid of this virus when we still have people who are moving back and forth, and bringing the risk that they have with them,” she said.

Dr. Henry also indicated the province is working on guidelines for singing and speaking loudly in gatherings.

“It only takes one person in a crowded setting to spread it to others,” she said, explaining that these actions have been linked to a number of outbreaks around the world, including choirs and night clubs.

“It is a cautionary tale,” Dr. Henry said “This is not the time to be having your choir practice.”

Quebec confirms all schools will resume in-class learning in the fall

Quebec’s Minister of Education Jean-François Roberge announced students across the province will return to in-class learning in the fall.

Classes will resume to their pre-COVID-19 sizes but students up to Grade 9 will be split up into subgroups to maintain physical distancing rules. 

Students in the higher grades will have two options, they can follow the rules for the lower grades or go to school with a hybrid in-person and at home system. A combined in-class and virtual learning plan will be in place for CEGEP and university students and will have to stay 1.5 metres away from other students.

On Tuesday, Quebec Premier Francois Legault commented on the federal government extending the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

He said he has spoken to mayors in the province who have expressed concerns about “convincing” people to go back to work if they can continue to receive $2,000 a month through the CERB.

“Is there a way to negotiate something with the federal government to make sure that there’s an incentive for those people to go back to work?” Legault said.

4:30 p.m.: Saskatchewan to begin Phase 4 on Monday

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe announced the province will move into the first part of Phase 4 of its reopening plan on Monday, June 22.

This phase of the plan include the reopening of the following businesses and services:

  • Child and youth day camps

  • Outdoor pools and spray parks

  • Seasonal/recreational outdoor sports and activities, both individual and team sports sports (ex. soccer, softball, flag football)

Tournaments and interprovincial travel for sports teams will still be restricted, there also can’t be any handshakes or high-fives during games. Physical distancing must still be maintained, as much as possible.

The limit on indoor gathering will also increase to 30 people, the same as the current outdoor gatherings in Saskatchewan.

“We are working very hard to get everything reopened as quickly as possible, also ensuring that it is reopened as safely as possible,” Moe said.

Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said small and infrequent gathers are better than large, frequent gatherings. He also advised that outdoor gatherings, with physical distancing, over the summer are preferred.

“Reopening of phases, if done properly, does not generally cause transmission to restart but gatherings in familiar surroundings…where we let our guard down, that’s where transmission continues to happen,” Dr. Shahab said. 

He said maintaining a two-metre physical distance will be important to prevent any “super spreader” events from gatherings.

P.E.I. will allow some family members to travel to the province

Dr. Heather Morrison, Prince Edward Island’s chief public health officer, said the province will allow families who provide support to someone in P.E.I. to travel to the province, as part of the compassionate grounds travel exemption.

This applies to family members who are in other parts of Canada who provide emotional and psychological support, personal care, respite, home support and child care.

“Family support is a new category within the compassionate grounds exemption and I’m happy that Islanders in need can now have that help and support,” Dr. Morrison said. “Family is defined as relatives living in Canada, parent, child, sibling, grandchild or grandparent.”

These individuals must still self-isolate for 14 days when they arrive in P.E.I. and adhere to the public health measures in place in the province.

In order to be approved, applications must demonstrate that the visit “will provide needed and welcome support for Islanders.”

“It is not a means for families to come to P.E.I. for solely social or recreational purposes, or to have a typical vacation,” Dr. Morrison said.

2:00 p.m.: ‘We can’t force anyone to get a test’

Ontario Premier Doug Ford spoke about the recent COVID-19 outbreaks among temporary foreign workers in the province, after Mexico has stopped sending these workers to Canada.

Two workers have died in the province and 300 Mexicans in Canada are believed to be infected with the virus.

Ford said 724 works have been tested in Windsor-Essex but stressed the province can’t force anyone to get tested.

“We can’t force anyone to get a test, we’re encouraging them to get a test,” Ford said. “I want the cooperation of farmers and the workers.”

Should wearing masks be mandatory?

Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, said the provincial government maintains that physical distancing is the most important rules to follow, with no plans to make mask wearing mandatory.

“Physical distancing is still the most important rule to follow, for the foreseeable future,” Elliott said. “Masks should work in situation where that’s not going to be possible.”

Premier Ford said he approves of stores implementing their own policy to mandate that customers wear a facial covering. This comes after 14 new cases of COVID-19 connected to a Home Depot store in Richmond Hill were discovered.

“I highly, highly recommend, when you go out, wear a face mask,” Ford said.

The premier also indicated the Ontario government would “consider” an order to provide immunity from civil prosecution to essential workers and essential work places from being sued for spread of COVID-19.

On Tuesday, the province announced a new toolkit for businesses in the province to create a safer workplace.

Some of the recommendations for businesses opening up include installing plexiglass barriers to separate workers from customers, removing unnecessary doors that many people would have to touch, limiting the number of people in a space at one time, staggering work shifts and breaks and establishing screening policies.

What Canada is doing to stop the ‘Alaska’ loophole

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland spoke about Canada and the U.S. extending border restrictions between the two countries for another 30 days, saying it was a “collaborative” decision and the measures will stay exactly the same.

When asked about Americans using the “Alaska loophole” to vacation in Canada, Freeland said the federal government is clear that any travel into Canada should be for essential purposes but the federal government also understands there are people in particular regions of both countries who do need to cross the border to get to other areas of their own country.

“We are very clear that Canada’s rules are you can enter for essential reasons but not for non-essential ones,” Freeland said. “Having said that, the RCMP in Banff is following up on this particular report and is encouraging Canadians to let them know if they see other people who seem to fall into this category.”

She said Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety, has instructed the CBSA to take further care to ensure people are “truly” coming to Canada for essential reasons.

The Deputy Prime Minister also spoke about temporary foreign workers contracting COVID-19 in Canada. She said the federal government is “working closely” with Ontario “to ensure that the conditions in which temporary foreign workers live are ones that don’t harm their health.”

“I think that all Canadians need to take that obligation very, very seriously and of course the employers need to take that obligation very, very seriously,” Freeland said.

11:25 a.m.: Extension to Canada-U.S. border restrictions and CERB

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada and the U.S. have agreed to extend border restriction by an additional 30 day, to July 21.

“This is an important decision that will keep people in both of our countries safe,” Trudeau said.

CERB extended

The prime minister also announced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) will be extended by eight weeks, originally expected to go ahead until July, with no changes to the $2,000 a month payment.

“Even as we start to reopen, a lot of people still need the support,” Trudeau said.

The prime minister said the federal government will look at “international best practices” and monitor the economy to determine if any changes need to be made to the financial aid program moving forward.

“Our goal here is to make sure that the CERB is working for you in the best way possible,” Trudeau said.

The prime minister also spoke about Canada’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council.

“Getting a seat on the UN Security Council for Canada is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end,” Trudeau said.

He stressed the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified how interconnected and interdependent the world is and the goal is to provide more ways for Canada to be more engaged on the world stage.

“Right now, as we look at the kind of world’ were going to come out of…we need a country like Canada that is big enough to make a difference but small enough to know we can’t do it alone,” the prime minister said.

June 15

7:30 p.m.: COVID-19 questions of the day

7:15 p.m.: ‘Two metres is what we need to do’

Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s provincial health officer, commented on recent reports that the two-metre physical distance could be reduced to one metre.

Dr. Henry indicated this is not a new discussion, but something that has been evaluated for many years. She said the general understand that droplets can spread from between one to two metres.

“Because we know that there are very few things we can do once somebody has been exposed, there’s no treatment, there’s no vaccine, we tend to be more on the cautious side,” Dr. Henry said.

“Technically, we say droplet spread is within a metre but we have, and I think the consensus with most of my colleagues around the world, for these types of setting is to say two metres is what we need to do.”

Dr. Henry said the province is looking at easing restrictions on travel within B.C. and providing guidance for safe travel this summer.

“We want people to…stay home, to travel within B.C., but to do it in a way that does not but undue burden on the place that you’re going,” she said.

B.C.’s provincial health officer also commented on people “cheating” the public health rules, telling border official they are going to Alaska but actually coming to vacation in Canada. Dr. Henry said these border issues that come with penalties but also indicated we may not know the “full story” of everyone’s particular situation.

“If people are misleading people at the border, then there can very well be consequences for that,” health minister Adrian Dix said. “I would advise anyone even contemplating such a thing to give their head a shake and not do it because it doesn’t make sense and they put at risk, in some respects, their ability to visit out country in the future.”

Alberta ends its state of emergency

The state of emergency declaration has officially lapsed in the province, health minister Tyler Shandro announced on Monday.

“It does not remove or impact the existing orders that Dr. Hinshaw has put in place,” Shandro said. “Nor does it impact her ability to issue additional orders, as they may be needed in the days ahead.”

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, commented on reports of people from the U.S. using the “loop hole” of telling border officials they are going to Alaska to cross the border.

Hinshaw said she has been in contact with the Canada Border Service Agency through the Public Health Agency of Canada, and has expressed concerns about “making sure that when people do cross on their way to Alaska that they’re very clear about the requirements.”

“I have see one media story about perhaps one particular group…who didn’t share accurate information,” she said. “I don’t have information to indicate this is a significant number of people crossing the border.”

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health maintained that everyone in the province needs to follow public health advice as COVID-19 “is going to be with us for many months to come.”

“I think it’s very likely that we will see some kind of a second wave,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “The timing and the peak of that wave are entirely dependent on us. This is in all of our hands.”

4:00 p.m.: Ontario looking to gather more data on COVID-19 cases

Ontario is planning to expand its data collection strategy and is proposing a regulatory change that would mandate the reporting of data on race, income, language and household size for individuals who have tested positive for the virus.

Individuals would be able to choose not to answer any or all of these questions.

“This will help us to get a more complete picture of the outbreak,” Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health said.

As more regions in Ontario continue to move into the next stage of reopening, Dr. Yaffe said many areas are successfully working to prevent future spread of the virus. Out of 34 health units, 28 reported five cases or fewer in Monday’s daily case count and 18 reported no new cases at all.

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said people in the province still need ensure they are following the public health guidance, particularly as more businesses and services resume operations.

“We’re expanding but we have to be more careful,” Dr. Williams said.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said he would like to see daily case numbers below 100, with about 60 cases day, which was the case back in February.

1:30 p.m.: More Ontarians to enter Stage 2 of reopening

The Ontario government announced seven new regions will move into Stage 2 of reopening on Friday, June 19 at 12:01 a.m.

These regions include:

  • Durham Region Health Department

  • Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit

  • Halton Region Health Department

  • Hamilton Public Health Services

  • Lambton Health Unit

  • Niagara Region Public Health Department

  • York Region Public Health Services

“Thanks to the collective efforts of our frontline health care workers and the people in these regions to stop the spread of COVID-19, more businesses will be able to open their doors and thousands of people will be able to go back to work and put food on the table,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said in a statement.

The second stage of reopening in Ontario includes, dine-in services at restaurants, personal services like hair salons and shopping malls can reopen.

People in Toronto, Peel and Windsor-Essex will remain in Stage 1 for the time being. Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott said the numbers of cases in these regions are higher than health officials would like, but they are “very close.”

Although some of these regions still in Stage 1 are quite close to other areas moving into Stage 2, the premier and health officials did not express particular concern about travel between these areas, saying the remaining regions should be moving into the next stage soon.

“Please be patient, we’re going to get there very, very soon,” Ford said.

With regards to the recent outbreaks among migrant workers in southern Ontario, Ford said it is “so important” to test anyone living out outbreak conditions. He explained the workers have to be willing to voluntarily be tested and the employers have to agree to the testing.

“Their concerns are if they test positive they’re going to lose all their workers, they’re going to lose all their crops but I think the chief medical officer, with his communications, has a solution for that,” Ford said. “If they test asymptomatic, they’ll still be able to work.”

“They came here, they self-isolated for two weeks and they’ve picked it up since they’ve been here. I don’t want any finger pointing at these hard-working migrant workers.”

12:55 p.m.: ‘We are not going back to before January 2020’

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, stressed the COVID-19 crisis is not over and people across the country must continue to follow public health rules.

“The cases are going down because of the public health measures,” Dr. Tam said, indicating it is not because the virus has become “less severe.”

She said people must maintain the two metre physical distance between others and wear a non-medial facial covering when that is not possible. Dr. Tam indicated health official are looking have sustainable measures that can continue to be in place in Canada, particularly as we head into the influenza season in the fall.

“We are not going back to before January 2020 and everyone, including young persons, must follow local public health advice,” Canada’s chief public health officer said.

Following an announcement from Quebec officials adjusting the safe physical distance rules for some groups, Dr. Tam explained “most” of the droplets from an individual can be avoided at a one metre distance, but the two metre distance is a more effective measure.

11:50 a.m.: Announcement on CERB to come later this week

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government is working to extend the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), with a formal announcement promised for later this week.

Trudeau still urged employers to apply for the wage subsidy, if their business is able to resume operations.

“The CERB was designed to keep everyone at home and allow us to get through the initial phase of this pandemic,” the prime minister said. “We know there are many jobs that aren’t going to be coming back in the short term.”

“We will continue to be there for you and your family.”

Trudeau also spoke about the Canada-U.S. border, indicating both countries are content with the restrictions currently in place.

When asked about reports last week of “loop holes” allowing Americans to come to Canada, including crossing the border to get to Alaska, the prime minister said the federal government is looking at these circumstances to ensure the rules are applied “consistently” for all travellers.

Trudeau announced applications for the Surplus Food Rescue Program can now be submitted. This allows producers to provide food they cannot sell, like potatoes, poultry and seafood, to people in need across the country, including remote communities.

He added the federal government said Canada is responding to a UN request to provide airlift support for emergency and humanitarian supplies for some of the world’ most vulnerable populations.

Quebec changes safe physical distancing guidance

Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s public health director, announced indoor gatherings can occur with a maximum of 50 people, with safe distancing rules being followed.

For children under the age of 16, a safe physical distance for them is now considered one metre in the province, opposed to the two metre distance. 

“The impact of the disease on kids is very low, we had schools with outbreaks but no big issues with the health of the kids,” Dr. Arruda said at a press conference on Monday.

There can also be small “bubbles” of groups of children in this age group at schools, with each bubble separated one metre apart, two metres away from teachers.

Dr. Arruda also said 1.5 metres is now considered a safe distance in between individuals or households at cinemas and theatres.

“If you stay there, you don’t sing, you don’t talk, you’re only listening to the movie…the risk is lower,” Quebec’s public health director said.

In all other circumstances, the two metre distance must be maintained.

June 12

6:15: COVID-19 questions of the day

6:00 p.m.: No new cases in Albert linked to protests, demonstrations

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, revealed about 60 per cent of active COVID-19 cases in the province are in people under the age of 40. Recently, there has been a particular increase in cases in individuals between the ages of 20 and 29.

“It is important for younger Albertans to remember that while you may not be at risk for severe outcomes of infection, your actions are critical to protecting those around you,” Dr. Hinshaw said.

There has also been a significant rise in COVID-19 cases in Edmonton, increasing from 58 to 149 in the last three weeks. Dr. Hinshaw said a single source or cause has not been identified. Approximately two-thirds of the cases are connected to known sources of infection.

Dr. Hinshaw was able to confirm none of these recent cases are linked to anti-racism protests and demonstrations in the province, but Alberta’s health team has developed a guidance document for organizers of these events. Recommendations include using virtual means, car rallies and demonstrating in groups of no more than 100 people, with distance between the groups.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health also commented on Friday’s announcement from the federal government mandating temperature checks at airports.

“We know that not everyone who has COVID-19 has a fever,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “If that was the only measure…that wouldn’t be sufficient.”

Dr. Hinshaw said it can be a useful tool as part of a multistep process but the province will be watching to see if this precaution can or should be moved into other settings, aside from travel.

1:45 p.m.: People in Ontario can create ‘social circles’ of up to 10 people

How to create a safe social circle
How to create a safe social circle

The Ontario government has announced people in the province can now create a “social circle” of up to 10 people, effective immediately. 

These are individuals that you will be able to come into close contact with, including hugs and sharing a meal at home or on an open restaurant patio.

Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, indicated there are five steps everyone needs to follow to establish a social circle. The steps are as follows:

  • Start with your current circle: the people you live with or who regularly come into your household

  • If your current circle is under 10 people, you can add members to your circle, including those from another household, family members or friends

  • Get agreement from everyone that they will join the circle

  • Keep your social circle safe. Maintain physical distancing with anyone outside of your circle

  • Be true to your circle, no one should be part of more than one circle.

“The social circle police aren’t going to be knocking on your door,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said. “We trust you’re going to be doing the right thing and just follow the protocols.”

Elliott stressed the social circle rules are different to the social gathering rules announced earlier this week. For social gatherings, physical distance of two metres must be maintained and participants do not need to be in your social circle.

“Up to now, Ontarians have done a great job of staying at home…wearing facial coverings in public settings,” Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said. “You want to trust the people in your group.”

Williams indicated that following the social circle protocol is also essential to help public health with contact tracing and contact management, should any additional COVID-19 cases or outbreaks appear.

1:00 p.m.: Travellers who have a fever will have to rebook flights in 14 days

Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, provided additional details on the temperature screenings at airports being mandated by the federal government.

The temperature checks will be executed by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), beginning at the end of June for international passengers coming to Canada. By the end of July, these screenings will be implemented for flights from Canada in the four largest airports in Canada, followed by 11 more airports by the end of September.

Temperature checks for passengers will occur twice, 10 minutes apart. If someone are confirmed to have a fever, they must rebook their flight 14 days later. Garneau said the federal government is working with airlines so ensure the subsequent flight is not more expensive than their original booking.

The transport minister stressed this is in addition to the health screening questions and the wearing of face coverings.

“Is it perfect, no, but it is part of a layered approach we are taking,” Garneau said, adding if someone with COVID-19 does have a fever and presents at an airport, there is a “very high” probability that it will be detected.

Americans could be coming to Canada to go to Alaska

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland commented on reports that Americans have been able to come to Canada by indicating they are driving through the country to get to Alaska.

She said although border officials are doing a “great job” to determine if someone’s journey is essential, she reminded people on both side of the border that “restrictions are there for a reason.”

“They are there to keep us all safe,” Freeland said. “Do not come to Canada unless you are coming for an essential reason.

With regards to the future of the Canada-U.S. border restrictions, the deputy prime minister said the two countries continue to maintain a “collaborative approach” and conversations are ongoing.

“I think that it’s important for all of us to recognize that so far, our joint collaborative approach…has been a real success,” Freeland said. “All decisions about the Canadian border will be taken by Canadians, in the Canadian national interest.”

She also said although the reopening of Canada’s economy is exciting, the COVID-19 situation still remains serious.

11:55 a.m.: Canada mandates temperature checks for travellers

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government is mandating temperature screenings at airport.

Trudeau said this will be a “phased approach,” first for travellers to Canada, then for travellers from Canada, followed by travellers within Canada.

The prime minister said a passenger who has a fever will not be permitted to board their flight and individuals who work at airports will also have temperature checks.

“It is an additional measure that can highlight symptoms of COVID-19,” Trudeau said. “It’s not a 100 per cent solution, it is an extra layer of safety…it also aligns with what many of our international partners are doing as well.”

Canadian Armed Forces to remain in long-term care homes until June 26

Trudeau also said the Canadian Armed Forces will remain at long-term care facilities in Ontario and Quebec until June 26.

“Their help is still needed,” the prime minister said.

He went on to say this is not a long-term solution and the goal is to replace the Canadian Armed Forces members in these settings with trained members from the Canadian Red Cross. Trudeau said member of the armed forces were there to “stabilize” the situation in these setting and have made a significant different to date.

For a full archive of the first month of the pandemic, please check our archive of events.

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