B.C. warning about ‘missteps’ leading to ‘significant resurgence,’ students in Alberta will return to school

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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 110,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in Canada and nearly 8,800 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.

July 21

7:15 p.m.: ‘A few missteps can quickly result is a significant resurgence’

A joint written statement from Adrian Dix, British Columbia’s Minister of Health, and Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, highlighted that there are “several” community exposure events.

“As we have seen in many other places, a few missteps can quickly result is a significant resurgence in new cases of COVID-19,” the statement reads. “Here in B.C., our curve is trending upward, and we need to bend our curve back down to where it belongs.

They indicated a number of new cases are a result of community transmission from “an increase in social interactions.”

“We can stop transmission by seeing fewer people, only spending time with people we know, keeping a safe distance from others and using a mask when that is difficult,” Minister Dix and Dr. Henry said in the statement. “Let’s continue to follow these rules for safe social interactions.”

Some restaurants, wineries and recreational facilities in the Okanagan and Lower Mainland region of B.C. have been notified of a potential exposure with some employees, including employees who have been confirmed positive for COVID-19.

6:30 p.m.: Alberta to resume in-school learning in September

The Alberta government announced K-12 students, more than 750,000 students, will return to school in September

“This does not mean that there will be no cases in schools, it means, rather, that we have calculated the relative risks of reopening against the risks of continued closures,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said at a press conference on Tuesday.

This will be done under scenario 1, characterized as “near-normal operations” or in-class learning with enhanced health and safety measures.

Some of these measures that will be in place include physical distancing, grouping students in cohorts to minimize infection spread, frequent hand washing with hand sanitizer at school entrances and classrooms, a strict stay-at-home policy when students and staff are sick, restrictions to shared equipment and new drop-off/pick-up procedures to limit contact between households.

Students and staff may also wear a mask if they choose to do so.

Kenney stressed that protocols may have to be changed and adapted over time, and parents will not be “forced” to send their children to school.

When asked why this announcement is coming as Alberta sees an increase in new COVID-19 cases, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health, stressed the current situation now is not necessarily an indication of what will happen in the months to come. She added that that not being in school can negatively impact children’s overall mental, emotional and physical health, as well.

“We’ve heard very clearly from parents and from the system that they want clarity as soon as possible as to what scenario we will be in,” Alberta’s Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange said. “This allows parents to make their plans for the upcoming school year.”

Dr. Hinshaw went on to say if a COVID-19 case is identified at a school, public health officials will work to ensure follow-up testing is conducted and additional health measures are put in place, including quarantining of close contacts.

She added that the best way to start the 2021-2022 school year is to have a low number of COVID-19 cases in the community.

“Our health system is watching the situation closely, but I want to be clear: We all have a role to play in reducing the rise in cases that we are seeing,” Dr. Hinshaw said.

“It looks like some folks are no longer observing the public health guidelines,” Premier Kenney said. “Whatever the reasons, the results are troubling.”

“Today I plead with Albertans not to give up on the progress that we’ve made…Let me be blunt, if you think you can socialize with large groups of people in close quarters, knock it off. If you’re young and healthy, remember you can still carry and transmit the virus that ends up killing someone who is old and vulnerable.” 

5:20 p.m.: Expansion of Atlantic bubble not coming in the near future

Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King said while discussions continue about opening up the Atlantic bubble to other part of Canada, it is not a priority for the province at this point.

“While I, like all Islanders, look forward to a time when our lives can return to some kind or normal and where our borders can be open to all of our visitors, we recognize that we need to remain vigilant as we learn to live with COVID-19,” King said. “For the time being we’ll maintain the status quo and measure any future decisions based on the best information and data, in coordination with the chief public health office.”

He added that the province is currently having conversations about how to allow more visitations at long-term care facilities and possible reunification of families within Canada.

Dr. Heather Morrison, the chief public health officer of P.E.I., stressed that it continues to be critically important for people in the province to keep their number of close contacts small, echoing comments from other Canadians health officials that the recent increase in new cases across Canada is “concerning.”

“If any one of us was asked to identity how many contacts we had in the last few days, if we were told we were positive with COVID, how many people would that impact? How many families would that impact?” Dr. Morrison said.

P.E.I. man arrested for for not self-isolating

It was also revealed on Tuesday that a man who tested positive for COVID-19 is now facing criminal charges after allegedly not self-isolating.

The 22-year-old was sent to the Rodd Brudenell River Resort last week to isolate and Kings District RCMP responded to reports from resort staff on Friday that he was not following the rules.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Dr. Morrison confirmed there is no additional risk to any patrons or staff at the resort.

2:15 p.m.: Two new long-term care homes being built in Mississauga

The Ontario government announced the new Accelerated Build Pilot Program, which will begin with the construction of two news long-term care homes in Mississauga.

The new facilities will be built in partnership with Trillium Health Partners and Infrastructure Ontario, adding up to 640 new long-term care beds by 2021.

“Our government won’t accept the status quo in long-term care,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said in a statement. “We made a commitment to seniors and their families to improve the quality of Ontario’s long-term care homes, and we intend to follow through.”

“Not only have we recently announced a plan to get shovels in the ground faster on over 120 long-term care projects in our pipeline, we are also exploring innovative partnerships to get more beds built sooner across the province starting with these two pilot projects in Mississauga.”

This new program follows widespread COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care facilities across the province, accounting for most of the virus-related deaths in Ontario.

1:20 p.m.: One of Canada’s top doctors reminds the public that ‘success is fragile’

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, indicated the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases across Canada is “concerning” and all people across the country have a role to play to keep the virus under control.

Dr. Njoo said Canada was averaging about 300 cases per day, on a seven-day rolling average, more recently increasing to about 350 cases a day. Currently, Canada is at an average of about 460 daily cases for the last four days or so.

“It seems that the vast majority, or the increase in proportion of cases, is among what we call young adults,” he said. “More recently it’s been about 55 per cent and that is concerning.”

Dr. Njoo said there are a number of factors that may contribute to this recent spike in new COVID-19 cases. One is fatigue from spending more time inside and having to follow public health rules.

For young people in particular, there is also the “invincibility factor,” which is related to younger people thinking they can “get away with anything.”

“By in large, even though their risk of actually being exposed to COVID-19 is the same any anyone else, the fact is that [they] appear to have less of a probably of having serious health consequences, compared to let’s say older age groups and also those with other underlying medical conditions,” Dr. Njoo said.

He added that another concern is that many younger people have very mild symptoms or are asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19.

“That’s where I think the challenge is because even if they have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic, the fact of the matter is that they’re part of our society,” he said.

Canada’s deputy chief public health officer did indicate that as more businesses resume operations, officials would “expect” to see “clusters of cases” but the decision to shut down services should be based on the COVID-19 situation at a local level.

“We need to be mindful [that] success is fragile, that it only takes a few sparks, people letting go and not keeping their foot on the gas…that we could backslide and unfortunately return to a situation as we had several months ago,” Dr. Njoo said.

Community transmission significant indicator of in-person schooling likelihood

Canada’s deputy chief public health officer was also asked about what would have to be considered from a public health perspective to reopen schools in the fall.

Dr. Njoo indicated that overall COVID-19 transmission in the community will be important.

“If the virus circulating level is quite low, then certainly the approach, the strategy in terms of reopening schools, I think, would be much different compared to if there was widespread transmission,” he said.

Dr. Njoo added that research has shown that very young children don’t tend to get particularly ill from COVID-19 but also don’t seem to transmit the virus to adults as easily. He did stress that evidence shows that older children, once they reach the age of about 10 years old, transmit the virus at a level that is closer to young adults.

July 20

7:15 p.m.: B.C. officials concerned about an ‘upward bend’ in its COVID-19 curve

BC Ministry of Health
BC Ministry of Health

Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s provincial health officer, said she has concerns about a rise in newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in the province. When asked where on a scale from 0 to 100 she is in terms of her level of concern, Dr. Henry she is at 102.

“We’re starting to see an upward bend of our curve,” B.C.’s provincial health officer said. “What this shows is that we do have a possibility of having explosive growth in our outbreak here in B.C. if we’re not careful in how we progress over the summer.”

An example of these exposure events includes parties in Kelowna. Dr. Henry said many of these individuals who gathered in the region have go back to where they live, in other parts of the province and beyond, and there will be more confirmed cases from this group “in the next couple of weeks.”

“What we can do is stop those people from exposing anybody else and that’s where we are right now,” she said.

BC Ministry of Health
BC Ministry of Health

The latest modelling projections from provincial health officials show these increasing case numbers can lead to great uncertainly over the summer, emphasizing that people in the province need to make sure they are following public health measures, particularly keeping the number of close contacts small.

“One thing that we have learned is that we can’t predict what’s going to happen and we are reacting to what has happened over the two weeks, three weeks, particularly since that July 1st week,” Dr. Henry said.

BC Ministry of Health
BC Ministry of Health

The reproductive number in the province has now risen above one, which the provincial health officer said is a place where there could be rapid transmission of COVID-19.

BC Ministry of Health
BC Ministry of Health

Dr. Henry said the province is approximately at a rate of 65 to 75 per cent of pre-COVID contacts, also indicating that listening to advice is important to prevent a rebound in transmission.

“This is concerning but it is not foregone that we will have a rapid rebound,” she said. “It is something that we can make a difference in if we we pay attention now.”

BC Ministry of Health
BC Ministry of Health

The province undertook a survey of people from all over B.C., with more than 394,300 participants, to get a sense of the population’s experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Once the survey was completed, the data was weighted to make it more representative of the B.C. population.

BC Ministry of Health
BC Ministry of Health

The survey found that four in five respondents approved of the COVID-19 response from public health, while fewer young adults felt the response was appropriate.

BC Ministry of Health
BC Ministry of Health

It also found that many people in B.C. faced a number of challenges associated with COVID-19. Most notably, impacts on mental health, concern for family members, impacts on work, difficulties with finances and accessing healthcare.

Of the respondents, young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 reported a greater mental health and economic burden during the pandemic, as did families with children.

“We’re on an edge that might go up but is in our hands to control,” Dr. Henry said. “If we increase our social interaction too much without doing it safely, we do risk a rebound that will impact us all.” 

6:00 p.m.: Manitoba bidding to become a CFL hub city

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced the province is launching an $8 million #RestartMB Event Attraction Strategy, in an effort to have Winnipeg and rural locations host large-scale meetings, conventions and events.

The province is also bidding for Winnipeg to be a CFL hub city.

“Manitoba is leading in recovery with a safe plan to restart our economy, which is why we are ready to make another important investment that supports the restart of our economy and invite the CFL to safely play its shortened 2020 season in Winnipeg,” Pallister said in a statement. “We are excited to work with Travel Manitoba and key economic stakeholders to develop our #RestartMB Event Attraction Strategy that will benefit the entire provincial economy, but in particular, the hardest-hit sectors of tourism and hospitality, namely restaurants and hotels.”

Should Winnipeg become a CFL hub city, the province is committing $2.5 million for expenses like food and accommodations, practice field rentals, ground transportation and event-specific expenses in Manitoba.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, indicated any CFL participants would be expected to follow public health rules, to be reviewed by local health authorities.

Manitoba officials are also advising the public about an outbreak of COVID-19 cases at Hutterite colonies, the majority linked to a gathering in Alberta.

There are also international travel-related COVID-19 cases in the province. One individual was a passenger on Asiana flight OZ 0704 from Manila, Philippines to Seoul, South Korea on July 7, Air Canada AC 0064 Seoul to Vancouver on July 8 (rows 26 to 32) and Air Canada AC 0296 Vancouver to Winnipeg on July 8 (rows 21 to 27). 

4:00 p.m.: Ontario’s top doctors calls for people in the province to prevent community spread of COVID-19

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, indicated it is critically important for people to continue to work to keep community transmission of COVID-19 down, especially as the province works to open schools in the fall.

“We know that if the community transmission is very low, the risk to schools is also low,” Dr. Williams said. “This is the forward investment rather than saying we’ve opened this up and let’s throw caution to the wind, that is not the message.”

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health also echoed premier Ford’s statement that different local health units are able to implement additional measures as they head into Stage 3, including Toronto and John Tory’s of list recommendations for food and drink establishments.

“I thought there were some good options in there,” Dr. Williams said. “I think those are aspects…that some municipalities, if they have a lot of dense, heavily used bar-type facilities, could put some limitations in there to decrease the risk-taking behaviour, if you may, of the patrons who might utilize that.” 

‘It’s easy for people to forget that we’re still in a pandemic’

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, said Ottawa’s public health unit has specifically identified an increase in cases in young people, with plans to increase case management staff, more mobile testing outreach and potential bylaw changes for gatherings.

“I think we have seen an increase in cases in young people in general,” Dr. Yaffe said. “The experience we’re seeing in other jurisdictions is young people going out to bars or private gatherings, so it wouldn’t be unlikely that it’s happening across other parts of Ontario.”

“What we’re trying to say is, it’s easy for people to forget that we’re still in a pandemic and to go back to what they used to do. The disease is still around, it will transmit and it may not be those young people who are severely affected but it could be people around them.”

2:40 p.m.: Ontario Place to hold summer events

The Ontario government is providing $2 million to support festivals and events at Ontario Place this summer.

“Ontario’s heritage, sport, tourism and culture industries were hit first, the hardest, and will take the longest to recover from COVID-19,” Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries said in a statement. “As we gradually reopen the province, Ontario Place offers exciting opportunities to safely come together to enjoy arts and culture experiences, while supporting the province’s economic recovery.”

The events at Ontario Place this summer includes:

  • Lavazza Drive-In Film Festival will feature the latest international films from different countries including France, Spain, China, Russia, the US, the UK, Brazil, India and Canada, with a special focus on Italy. It will run from July 20-31.

  • Toronto Shines will present the best in live entertainment, comedy and current and classic films. It is running now through October.

  • DriveInTO, a new initiative launched by the City of Toronto, will offer free drive-in film screenings in August with programming by Hot Docs, imagineNATIVE and TIFF.

  • Toronto Undergraduate Jazz Festival, a not for profit organization that creates opportunities for young jazz artists to showcase their talent, will present a virtual jazz festival in the Trillium Park on September 5-6.

  • Toronto International Film Festival will run from September 10-19, with 50 new feature films, five programmes of short films, as well as interactive talks, film cast reunions, and Q&As with cast and filmmakers tailored to fit the moment with physical screenings, digital screenings, and at drive-ins, including Ontario Place.

1:40 p.m.: More regions of Ontario move into Stage 3

The Ontario government announced seven additional regions can move into Stage 3 of reopening on Friday, Jul. 24. They are:

  • 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

The three areas absent from this list are Toronto, Peel and Windsor-Essex, which combined have accounted for a large percentage of new COVID-19 recently identified.

At a press conference on Monday, Minister of Health Christine Elliott said it is very important for people to follow the public health rules still present in Stage 3, including maintaining a close social circle of up to 10 people, physical distancing and practicing good hand hygiene. She added that having four weeks of data from the impact of Stage 2 will be a core part of moving the remaining regions to the next stage of reopening.

As a reminder, Stage 3 includes being able to congregate with 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors (with proper social distancing measures in place), as well as the reopening of personal grooming and restaurant dining.

‘Do the right thing’

As the number of younger people being infected with COVID-19 continues to rise, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said these individuals need to think about the health of their parents, grandparents and other family members when they go out.

“Do the right thing,” Ford said. “Don’t go to these parties if they’re there, it’s not worth it.”

“You may get through it but it’s going to be a different story for your parents and your relatives, and the loved ones that are part of your family.”

Elliott added that she is aware there is “COVID fatigue,” particularly among young people. 

“Please remember that as we’re opening up the economy it is more important than ever before to please follow the public health rules,” she said.

When asked about the safety of opening bars, Ford stressed that every region has the ability to implement additional measures for the opening of these spaces.

This comes after Toronto Mayor John Tory sent a letter to the Ontario premier to request six additional measures be implemented to prevent any future spread of COVID-19.

These requests include adding provisions that require patrons at food and drink establishments to be seated at all times (unless entering, exiting, going to the washroom or paying) and a request to limit capacity at these to ensure physical distancing can be maintained. 

11:00 a.m.: ‘Given the prime minister’s history, it’s not really that surprising’

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer called out Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for take a “personal day” when the House is set to reconvene, with discussions set to include the proposed extension of the emergency wage subsidy and a one-time $600 payment to Canadians with disabilities, in additional expected questions about the WE Charity scandal.

“He picked today to come back to debate this bill and also to participate in question period,” Scheer said. “Then he decided to take a personal day, well it’s completely unacceptable that he doesn’t show up for work on the day that he chose.”

“It’s an insult to Canadians who have very serious questions about the WE scandal and who still are suffering because of the gaps in Mr. Trudeau’s programs.”

The Conservative Leader indicated the proposed changes to the wage subsidy is “a complex web of rules and regulations that will trap businesses in paperwork and accounting fees.”

“This is further proof of the fact that Justin Trudeau has no plan to help Canadians get back on their feet or to restart our economy,” he said.

“We’ve highlighted ideas to make it simpler. You need a degree in mathematics to fully understand all the permutations and combinations that they’ve come up with. We need to get help out the door to businesses.”

Scheer also said he planned to ask the prime minister about the $900 million WE Charity scandal related to the student grant program. 

“He didn’t make a mistake, he made a choice to hand almost a billion dollars to a charity that has paid multiple members of his immediate family almost $300,000,” the Conservative Leader said. “This is the kind of scandal you would expect to hear in a corrupt country, half way across the globe, not in a G7 country like Canada.”

“Given the prime minister’s history, it’s not really that surprising.”

July 17

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

7:20 p.m.: ‘Concerning’ new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s provincial health officer, spoke about recent COVID-19 cases discovered in the province. There are now 35 cases linked to exposure in Kelowna, which began around Canada Day, and Dr. Henry identified this as “one of the more concerning issues.”

“We recognize that there have been a number of events that have happened there and we need people to start thinking about how we can socialize safely over the coming we weeks,” she said.

B.C.’s provincial health officer also wants people to share the message to “make sure that we don’t let COVID steal our summer.”

“We need to play safe and stay safe,” she said. “We can have fun and we can do it in a way that is safe.”

A COVID-19 outbreak has also been declared at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, in a neonatal intensive care unit.

There has also been an exposure event at the Sandman Suites hotel in Vancouver, which occurred between Jul. 7 and Jul. 16. At a press conference on Friday Dr. Henry said anyone who may have been exposed is required to monitor for symptoms and limit contacts with others.

“More people getting sick, more outbreaks in hospitals, those are when we have to start stepping back on some of the opening up that we’re doing,” the provincial health officer said.

3:30 p.m.: Proposed changes to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy

Minister of Finance Bill Morneau announced proposed changes to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), including extending the program until Dec. 19.

This will also adjust the 30 per cent decline in revenue requirement to qualify for the program, opening it up to businesses with any amount of revenue loss. A top-up subsidy of up to an additional 25 per cent for employers that have been hardest hit by COVID-19.

‘I made a mistake’

The finance minister also commented on the WE Charity investigation related to the summer student grants contract, where his daughter works in an “administrative role.”

“I did not recuse myself from the deliberations…and in hindsight, I should have,” Morneau said. “I made a mistake.”

“I regret and I apologize sincerely for having made that mistake. I think it’s made our ability to deliver on this program more challenging.” 

He went on the stress that the recommendation to award the contract to WE came from the public service but said “multiple departments” worked together on how to delivery the program, calling it an “all hands on deck” moment.

“I absolutely can see that I should have recused myself, that there was a perception that was real and that I needed to deal with that,” Morneau said.

2:45 p.m.: ‘I believe that in a heartbeat’

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said at a press conference on Friday that he will reach out to Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister to get a briefing on reports that Russian hackers are stealing COVID-19-related intellectual property, including vaccine development.

“I believe that in a heartbeat,” Ford said. “Not only Russians, I think other countries are going after intellectual property.”

His comments came on the same day the province announced a “made-in-Ontario Intellectual Property Action Plan” to prioritizing IP generation, protection, and commercialization.

“Too often, the priceless intellectual property developed here in Ontario gets bought up by the big U.S. or international firms,” Ford said. “We want that intellectual property and its value to stay right here in Ontario.”

Hospital takes over Toronto area long-term care home

Ontario’s Ministry of Long-Term Care also announced Humber River Hospital will assume management of Villa Colombo in North York. The provincial government indicated the facility has not been able to contain COVID-19.

“I’m glad to hear Humber River…is going in there,” the premier said. “I won’t hesitate to get any hospital to take over long-term care homes to protect the most vulnerable people.”

2:00 p.m.: ‘Cause of concern’ as COVID-19 cases in Canada rise

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, indicated there is “some cause for concern” in Canada as daily COVID-19 case counts begin to rise nationally.

Over the past week, an average of 350 new cases per day have been identified, compared to a daily average of 300 earlier in the month. On Thursday, over 430 new COVID-19 cases were reported.

“This coincides with increasing reports of individuals contacting COVID-19 at parties, nightclubs and bars, as well as increasing rates of transmission among young Canadians in some jurisdictions across the country,” Dr. Njoo said at a press conference on Friday.

Canada’s deputy chief public health officer said part of this might be the “fatigue factor” as Canadians have been under various public health restrictions for many months. He went on to stress that although young Canadians, individuals under the age of 40, tend to not have the same rate of serious health consequences from COVID-19 as older individuals, they are still equally as susceptible to being infected and spreading the virus.

“I was young once and I can remember when I was younger I thought I was invincible, you can do anything, don’t worry about it, it will be ok,” Dr. Njoo said. “I would tell young people, including my own kids,…you need to also take some personal responsibility, it’s not only to protect your health but to protect all others in our society.”

Proposed financial support for Canadians with disabilities

Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability, said the federal government is moving forward with proposed legislation to make the previously announced one-time, tax-free payment of $600 available to approximately 1.7 million Canadians with disabilities.

The funds are meant to support these Canadians who have incurred additional expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Canadians with disabilities have a 60-day window of opportunity to apply after the bill receives Royal Assent, if they have not done so already.

“The delay in getting this money to Canadians with disability in this time of pandemic crisis has brought to light shortcomings and barriers within Government of Canada programs and service delivery for our citizen with disabilities, and these need to be addressed,” Qualtrough said.

July 16

7:00 p.m.: ‘Most of us do not have antibodies’

Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s provincial health officer, spoke about a recent report from University of British Columbia, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, LifeLabs and public health scientists on serology testing.

The report outlines that less than one per cent were positive for antibodies for COVID-19 and it is estimated that about eight times more residents of the province have been infected. That means about 16,000, 17,000 people may have had COVID-19 in the last six months.

“This tells us that we still have very low levels of this virus and we don’t yet know whether having these antibodies means that you’re protected, you’re immune from this virus if you get exposed to it again,” Dr. Henry said. “Most of us do not have antibodies to this virus…and we need to keep doing the things we’re doing to minimize the effects of this virus in our communities.”

14-day quarantine rule for travellers should remain

B.C.’s provincial health officer also commented Air Canada’s call for the government to ease the 14-day quarantine rule for some travellers coming to Canada.

“I absolutely do not think we should be reducing our quarantine, we need to be very cautious,” Dr. Henry said. “I do think that there are places that we could look at, particularly here in B.C. where we know our transmission is low, places like New Zealand, places like parts of Europe.”

“I do not see that quarantine period being reduce or stopped in the near future and we only have to look around us to see the risks [that] can bring.”

Dr. Henry highlighted that even Canadians travelling within the country have spread the virus so it is still important to be cautious about travel.

B.C.’s provincial health officer also stressed it is important for airlines to be able to provide usable flight manifests to public health officials in order to track and trace any possible COVID-19 cases, both internationally and domestically.

“We need to have a way of contacting people quickly,” Dr. Henry said, adding that sometimes the name isn’t even accurate, depending on who actually booked the flight and the system used.

‘Masks are safe to wear’

As some jurisdictions implement mandatory mask wearing rules, B.C.’s provincial health officer stressed that transit is one area where everyone should be wearing a mask, if they can.

“There are very few medical reasons why people can’t wear masks,” she said. “Masks are safe to wear.”

“They do not cause you to become hypoxic, they do not increase your risk of keeping viruses or bacteria or other things in, they do not exacerbate asthma or other lung conditions.”

4:30 p.m.: Ontario premier applauds ‘great’ deal with federal government

Ontario Premier Doug Ford responded to the recent announcement from the federal government that the $19 billion “safe restart” agreement has been reached. Ford said $7 billion is being allocated for Ontario as part of the “great” deal.

“By standing united…Ontario was in a very strong position to get the deal we needed with the federal government,” the premier said.

“At the end of the day the prime minister had the final say…and he pulled through, in my opinion, with spades. He stepped up, true leadership.”

The Ontario government also announced it is expanding the Risk Management Program, a year earlier than planned, by $50 million for a total of $150 million annually to support farmers.

This comes as the agriculture sector continues to recover during the COVID-19 pandemic and outbreaks among temporary foreign workers on farms were discovered.

“The reason they’re here is because a lot of folks here don’t want that job, it’s a tough job,” Ford said. “I’m first to admit, I couldn’t be out in the fields.”

3:15 p.m.: $19 billion safe restart agreement

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland announced the $19 billion “safe restart” agreement has been reached with provincial and territorial governments.

The funds will be used for seven different priority sectors, including money for testing and contact tracing, acquiring personal protective equipment (PPE), childcare and a sick leave plan, transit, and supporting Canada’s most vulnerable, including seniors in long-term care homes. There will also be additional funds available to support municipalities.

“Cities must remain up and running if our economy is to eventually get back up and running,” the prime minister said.

“We know that if our cities are not equipped for a safe restart…Canada won’t either,” Freeland added.

This deal is meant to cover six to eight months of time, with discussions continuing as the possibility of a second wave looms.

Trudeau said the federal government understands each province is facing “different realities” and an amount of flexibility is needed. He added that provinces and territories must be transparent about where funds are going and money cannot be taken from one priority bucket and put into another.

Canada-U.S. border restrictions remain

The prime minister also confirmed current restrictions at the Canada-U.S. border will remain until Aug. 21. This means all non-essential travel between the two countries will continue to be prohibited.

The deputy prime minister also spoke about the WE charity investigation, saying the government “made a mistake.”

“I’m really sorry,” Freeland said. “I very much regret what has happened.”

She added that prime minister Trudeau continues to have her “complete confidence.”

1:30 p.m.: Russian hackers target Canada, U.K., U.S. COVID-19 vaccine information

Security agencies in Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. have issued a statement about Russian cyber threat activity, which includes information on COVID-19 vaccine research, and COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.

“These malicious cyber activities were very likely undertaken to steal information and intellectual property relating to the development and testing of COVID-19 vaccines, and serve to hinder response efforts at a time when healthcare experts and medical researchers need every available resource to help fight the pandemic,” the statement reads.

July 15

5:52 p.m.: COVID-19 questions of the day

5:15 p.m.: Newfoundland and Labrador calls for more kindness towards people with COVID-19

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, Newfoundland and Labrador’s chief medical officer of health, called for people in the province to be kind to people who become infected with COVID-19, after saying it is “unrealistic” to think there will be no more confirmed cases.

“People who are unfortunate enough to contract this disease need our support and our understanding, not our judgement and disdain,” Dr. Fitzgerald said. “As new cases arise, we must treat people with kindness, compassion and understanding.”

“If people who test positive for COVID-19 feel vilified, others will most certainly feel reluctant to move forward if they have symptoms. We need to know about cases of this virus.”

Premier Dwight Ball spoke about the Atlantic bubble and the possibility of expanding it to include more Canadian provinces.

“We’re not anxious to get there right now,” Ball said. “It’s making sure that people are kept safe.”

“We know that we can’t stay closed forever. We know that we have to live with COVID within our province and within this country. We’re not there yet.” 

1:45 p.m.: $1.75B for long-term care homes in Ontario

The Ontario government announced that over the next five years $1.75 billion will be invested to create more long-term care beds, and help development of new homes. The province will also be updating design standards including upgrades to air conditioning, private rooms and semi-private rooms.

“We inherited a broken system,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said at a press conference on Wednesday. “A system where tens of thousands of seniors were left on waitlists for beds, a system where seniors are waiting in emergency rooms and hospital hallways, a system where many seniors are denied the comfort of air conditioning during the summer months.”

“It’s unacceptable and we’re going to fix it.”

Ford said the province is estimating that 8,000 new long-term care beds will be created and 12,000 long-term care beds will be redeveloped.

The province will also be creating four regional categories with a dedicated targeted home size, large urban, urban, mid-size, and rural facilities. Grants between 10 per cent and 17 per cent will be provided based on regional category.

Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care, announced Ontario will also be changing visiting rules in long-term care homes.

Effective immediately, up to two people at a time can now visit a loved one in long-term care during an outdoor visit and will no longer be required to take a COVID-19 test. On Jul. 22, indoor visits of two at a time will be permitted and verbal attestation of a negative COVID-19 test will be necessary.

‘We’ll assess the whole area of education’

The premier also responded to a new document from the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) that indicates as much $250 million could be needed for proposed plans for fall schooling. The school board also stated that cutting French classes and shortening school days may also be required.

“We always value their input and all the other board right across the province,” Ford said. “But just keep in mind that the TDSB is going to get $55 million more than they did last year….There’s $23 million allocated to hire more teachers.”

“We’ll assess the whole area of education as we’re doing right now.” 

July 14

7:30 p.m.: Hope of stopping COVID-19 pandemic ‘no longer a reality’

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, said she had hopes back in March that COVID-19 would be managed worldwide before it became a widespread global pandemic.

“I had some hopes then, and they have been dashed, that we might be able to actually control it globally and stop the outbreak…but that is no longer a reality,” Dr. Henry said.

She said the province has been able to flatten the curve but stressed that some public health measures will remain in place for some time.

“That is going to be our reality, in my opinion, for the next months until we have an effective treatment or a vaccine,” Dr. Henry said.

B.C.’s provincial health officer said she supports restrictions to recreational travel between Canada and the U.S., particularly as cases continue to surge among Americans.

“They’ve had record numbers and unfortunately what we’re starting to see are what we call the lag indicators, the hospitalizations and the deaths now starting to increase, even though many of the cases are in younger people,” Dr. Henry said.

“I don’t believe that there’s any reason that we would expect to be able to safely have visitors, people who are here as tourists, in the coming weeks and months.”

Dr. Henry added she is also concerned about people travelling with symptoms between Canadian provinces.

“These are things that cause me great consternation,” she said. “All the airlines need to have processes in place to screen out people but we need to be honest about it.”

“Part of that means if we are not feeling well, we need to have the ability to postpone or change our flights.”

B.C.’s provincial health officer said airlines also have to ensure that they collect thorough, accurate information for all travellers so public health officials can efficiently contact anyone who has been within rows of someone who develops COVID-19 symptoms after a flight.

Alberta links COVID-19 cases to anti-racism demonstrations

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer, responded to reports of individuals from the Siksika Nation being denied access into businesses due to recent cases in the First Nation community.

“COVID-19 doesn’t care where people come from or what a person’s heritage may be,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “The members of the Siksika First Nation deserve better than that, all Albertans of every heritage deserve better than that.”

Alberta’s chief medical officer also confirmed that a “small number” of cases have been identified in people who potentially acquired COVID-19 at anti-racism demonstrations.

“We also identified a small number of cases who potentially were infectious while they were present at the rallies,” Dr. Hinshaw said.

She estimates that the number of cases are less than 10 at this point, but information is still being gathered.

“There was some transmission that took place, likely in those events,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “Given that there were a large proportion of people who were wearing masks, I think that the outcome could have been much worse if some of those precautionary measures were not taken.” 

4:30 p.m.: New case in essential worker from P.E.I, linked to travel

Prince Edward Island has announced an additional confirmed case of COVID-19 in the province, a non-healthcare essential worker in his thirties, who recently travelled internationally.

There are also two active cases linked to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown. Dr. Heather Morrison, the chief public health officer of P.E.I., said patients and staff who have come into contact with the emergency department worker who tested positive for the virus, between Jul. 4 and Jul. 10, have been contacted to arrange testing.

On Monday, about 506 COVID-19 swabs related to the hospital case were received at the lab and to date, all results are negative.

Dr. Morrison indicated there are national conversations taking place about whether Canada needs to look at different isolation or testing requirements for people from different countries. She added at this point, it still remains important that anyone travelling to Canada self-isolate for 14 days.

2:00 p.m.: ‘I don’t want them up here right now’

At a press conference on Tuesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford stressed that he does not want Americans coming into the province, going on to say the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. is “staggering.”

“I love the Americans, I don’t want them up here right now,” Ford said. “They’ve been reckless, they moved forward too quickly and we’re going right and the right speed.”

More made-in-Ontario PPE

The Ontario government announced it is providing Cambridge-based Eclipse Innovations Inc. with more than $1.4 million from the Ontario Together Fund to scale up its manufacturing of N95 masks. 

“As part of our government’s made-in-Ontario plan for renewal, growth, and recovery, we are actively working with local companies to manufacture the critical PPE we need to protect our frontline workers today and well into the future,” Ford said in a statement. 

“We have the most talented and innovative people anywhere to make the highest quality products in the world. Ontario is the manufacturing powerhouse of Canada and we encourage everyone to buy local to help our businesses and factories get back on their feet.”

1:15 p.m.: Spikes in COVID-19 cases ‘almost inevitable’

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said it is “very encouraging” that there are over 100 vaccine candidates around the word but stressed there are many different steps ahead to develop a safe, effective vaccine.

“Other studies have also shown…if someone has been infected with the COVID-19 infection, that the natural immunity is not very long-lasting, maybe a few weeks, several months or so,” Dr .Njoo said. “Certainly not something that we can count on in terms of over time getting that so called population herd immunity, just based on natural infection.”

“That’s why vaccine development I think is going to be very, very important…Most scientists, being very optimistic, might think that if there were to be a vaccine it wouldn’t be before 2021.”

Canada’s deputy chief public health officer said that as public health measures continue to relax across Canada it is “almost inevitable” that there will be spikes in cases, clusters of cases.

“If you have the capacity in place then you’re able to actually manage it well and see if there are lessons learned from why those clusters and cases did occur, to maybe see if there are might be some other adjustments you might be able to implement moving forward,” Dr. Njoo said.

‘I would not be specifically going to a bar’

Canada’s deputy chief public health officer commented on COVID-19 spread at bars, most recently reported in Quebec. He said these areas can be of particular concern because of the increased risk of transmission in indoor spaces where there is poor ventilation.

“The fact that people might be there for a prolonged period of time, duration of exposure is also a key factor,” Dr. Njoo said. “I would not be specifically going to a bar.”

“After one or two drinks, people might feel less inhibited and certainly if you go in with good intentions in terms of wearing your mask and social distancing and so on, who knows after one or two drinks if that might change.”

Health official still cautious of loosening restrictions at Canada-U.S. border

Dr. Njoo stressed that public health officials continue to look at the epidemiology in Canada and the U.S. to provide guidance on possible future travel opportunities between the two countries. He said Canadians have done a good job at flattening the curve of the virus and he does not want Canada to “waste those efforts” by reintroducing COVID-19.

“The situation in Canada and the U.S., I would say from a pure epidemiological point of view, is vastly different…The situation doesn’t appear to be changing quickly in the U.S,” he said. 

July 13

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

5:00 p.m.: Alberta premier says federal government is preventing Apple from fixing issue with contact tracing app

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the federal government is Apple from working with the province to resolve an issue with its existing contact tracing app.

Currently, the ABTraceTogether app requires Apple users to have the app open on the phone the whole time to operate properly.

“Unfortunately, the Government of Canada has told Google and Apple to not work with the Government of Alberta…on improving the Trace Together app,” Kenney said. “They’ve done so because they say they want cooperation on a single national platform.”

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta (OIPC) has identified concerns about the need to have the app running in the foreground of an individual’s phone.

“Given the need to run ABTraceTogether in the foreground on Apple devices, there is a security risk,” Information and Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton said in a statement. “Running the app on Apple devices requires a device to remain unlocked, which significantly increases risk in case of theft or loss.”

Alberta’s premier said he will continue to request that the government not put a “barrier” in the way of fixing the contact tracing app.

“We have made repeated requests for the federal government to remove their barrier, their objection to Google, Apple and other major tech companies working directly with us to improve the functionality of the app,” Kenney said.

20 million free masks for Albertans

Although the provincial government is not making masks mandatory, Alberta will make 20 million free masks available province-wide.

They will be available at more than 700 partner restaurants. A&W, McDonald’s Canada, and Tim Hortons partner restaurants are handing out eight masks per person.

Four million masks are being provided to 20 transit systems in Alberta and 7-Eleven Canada has donated logistics support to deliver these masks to each transit service.

Long-term care and supportive living, seniors facilities, community groups, social service organizations, libraries, court houses and places of worship will also be distributing masks.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, is “strongly recommending” that people in the province wear a mask in public spaces.

“Wearing a mask is a common sense precaution,” she said.

3:30 p.m.: Large droplets still the primary source of COVID-19 spread

On the day the Ontario government announced Stage 3 of its reopening plan, the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, said there could be a way for businesses excluded from the next stage of reopening to participate.

Dr. Williams indicated any business is able to submit a plan to health officials and if it is deemed adequate to keep customers and employees safe, they may be able to resume operations in some capacity.

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, said the province continues to see a downward trend in cases, most recently coming from Toronto, Peel, York, Windsor-Essex and Ottawa regions.

She also spoke about recent reports that airborne transmission of COVID-19 may be possible, indicating droplet spread continues to be the main concern, but the science is evolving.

“The bottom line is that our real-life evidence has shown that this is almost virtual entirely transmitted through large droplets,” Dr. Yaffe said. “If it were aerosolized, we would be having widespread outbreaks way more than we’ve had.”

“What it does show is there’s the theoretical possibility for very small particles to remain in the air for a while and that is a big issue for medical procedures that generation aerosols. For example, when you’re inserting a tube to ventilate a patient or you’re suctioning a patient.”

Dr. Yaffe said this also stressed the importance of having good ventilation in a shared space, even if physical distancing is being maintained and masks are being worn.

3:00 p.m.: Masks to become mandatory in Quebec

Quebec Premier Francois Legault announced masks will mandatory in all indoor public places beginning on Saturday, Jul. 18.

The new rule applies to anyone age 12 and older. Masks are recommended for younger people but it is not mandatory. There is also an exception for people who cannot wear a mask due to an existing medical condition.

Business owners can be fined between $400 and $6,000 for not enforcing these rules in their establishment.

Premier Legault also reminded people in Quebec that only gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed in the province.

“We’re not going to put all of Quebec at risk because of a few big parties,” he said.

1:40 p.m.: Parts of Ontario to move into Stage 3 on Friday

The Ontario government has announced parts of the province will be able to move into Stage 3 of reopening on Friday. These regions are:

  • Algoma Public Health

  • Brant County Health Unit

  • Chatham-Kent Public Health

  • Eastern Ontario Health Unit

  • Grey Bruce Health Unit

  • Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit

  • Hastings Prince Edward Public Health

  • Huron Perth Public Health

  • Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health

  • Leeds Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit

  • Middlesex-London Health Unit

  • North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit

  • Northwestern Health Unit

  • Ottawa Public Health

  • Peterborough Public Health

  • Porcupine Health Unit

  • Public Health Sudbury & Districts

  • Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services

  • Renfrew County and District Health Unit

  • Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit

  • Southwestern Public Health

  • Thunder Bay District Health Unit

  • Timiskaming Health Unit

  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health

This excludes: 

  • Toronto Public Health

  • York Region Public Health

  • Peel Public Health

  • Hamilton Public Health Services

  • Halton Region Public Health

  • Durham Region Health Department

  • Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit

  • Lambton Public Health

  • Niagara Region Public Health

  • Windsor-Essex County Health Unit

Government of Ontario
Government of Ontario

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said provincial officials will provide updates every Monday on where these remaining regions stand in terms of being able to move from Stage 2 to Stage 3 of reopening.

Some businesses and services that will be able to resume operations in some areas on Friday include:

  • Dine-in services at restaurants, bars

  • Gyms and fitness centres

  • Additional personal care services (ex. facials, ear piercing, eyebrow grooming and eyelash extensions)

  • Live shows, performing arts, movie theatres, live sporting events (with gathering limits)

  • Casinos (with gathering limits)

  • Playgrounds

  • Tour and guide services

Outdoor gathering limits will be increased to 100 people and indoor gathering will be allowed with up to 50 people present, but physical distancing practices will still be in place. The social circle limit of 10 people will remain.

Beginning on Jul. 27, child care centres can operate with cohorts of 15 children, which the province indicates brings the child care sector to about 90 per cent of its pre-COVID-19 operating capacity.

Minister of Health Christine Elliott indicated it is expected that more Stage 3 measures will remain for some time, possibly until there is a vaccine available, but if the province is able to keep case numbers down with no new outbreaks, provincial officials may allow for gradually expanding things like the size of gatherings.

Businesses and services that are still not considered safe for Stage 3 of reopening includes:

  • Amusement parks and water parks

  • Buffet-style food services

  • Dancing at restaurants and bars, other than by performers hired by the establishment following specific requirements

  • Overnight stays at camps for children

  • Private karaoke rooms

  • Prolonged or deliberate contact while playing sports

  • Saunas, steam rooms, bath houses and oxygen bars

  • Table games at casinos and gaming establishments

12:30 p.m.: ‘I made a mistaken in not recusing myself’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized on Monday for not recusing himself from discussions about using the WE charity to administer the $900 million student grant program.

“I made a mistaken in not recusing myself immediately from the discussions given our family’s history,” Trudeau said. “I’m sincerely sorry about not having done that.”

“I’m particularly sorry because not only has it created unnecessary controversy and issues, it also means that young people who are facing a difficult time right now, getting summer jobs, contributing to their communities, are going to have to wait a little longer before getting those opportunities to serve, and that’s frustrating.”

The prime minister went on to confirm the WE charity has paid back the money it received to work on the grant program and the government will be finding another organization to execute administer volunteer placements for students.

“In this situation the mistake that we made was on me and I take responsibility for it,” Trudeau said. “We will continue to work very, very hard to deliver the programs that young people, indeed all Canadians need to get through this historic pandemic.”

When asked if he knew that his mother and brother were getting paid by WE, the prime minister said “it is not surprising” that they did.

“I was very aware that members of my family have worked with and contributed to the WE organization but I was unaware of the details of the remuneration and I should have, and I regret that,” he said. “What I also deeply regret is the fact that I have brought my mother into this situation in a way that is really unfair to her.”

“I should have been thoughtful enough to recuse myself completely from any discussions around WE because of these connections from the very beginning, and I did not.” 

10:30 a.m.: Details on Ontario’s Stage 3 of reopening to come

The Ontario government is expected to announce plans for Stage 3 of the province’s reopening.

This means “reopening most remaining workplaces and community spaces, while carefully and gradually lifting restrictions,” the existing information on the government’s website reads.

Government of Ontario
Government of Ontario

Stage 3 is also expected to include more relaxing of gathering rules, while large public gatherings, like festivals and concerts, will likely still be prohibited.

With Ontario using a regional approach to move into Stage 2, people in the province will also be watching to see how the next phase differs across the province.

July 10

2:00 p.m.: ‘Not right now’ Ontario’s premier says to American visitors

At a press conference in Woodbridge, Ont. on Friday, premier Doug Ford stressed he does not want Americans coming to Ontario for recreational purposes.

“As long as the goods and products are flowing…not right now,” Ford said. “Come and visit us when things cool out and calm down.”

The premier said he spoke to a doctor recently about when the second wave of COVID-19 may hit. Ford shared that the doctor said it would happen “as soon as you open up the border to international travel,” which still remains a concern for the premier.

‘Ontario Made’ program

The Ontario government announced it is supporting the launch of the Ontario Made program from Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME).

“Promoting locally made products will be essential to building a strong, self-sufficient province and key to our economic recovery,” Ford said in a statement.

Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic hitting Ontario, the premier has pushed for a “made in Ontario” solution to produce essential supplies, while also urging people in the province to support local businesses during this difficult economic time.

Now a new Ontario Made logo will be created and added on products in an effort to help consumers identify products made locally.

July 9

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

7:00 p.m.: B.C.’s top doctor says some public health measures will have to be in place until there is a vaccine, effective treatment

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, continues to remind people that COVID-19 is far from over, although the province has successfully flattened its curve to this point.

“I know some people may be thinking this is all over and that they can relax, and go back to normal,” Dr. Henry said. “But until effective treatment or a vaccine is available we know that this virus is going to circulate in our communities.”

“Things can quickly escalate once again if we let our guard down too far.”

In order to prepare for a possible second wave of COVID-19 infections, the province is developing a number of scenarios based on existing attack rates in B.C. Dr. Henry said the goal is to make sure the province doesn’t have to go back to shutting everything down.

“When I talk about the dynamic compartmental modelling that shows us needing to be at a balance of about 65 per cent of our contacts, that’s what we need to continue for the fall, into next year, until we either have an effective treatment or a vaccine,” she said.

Dr. Henry expects to be able to present some information based on research protocols for antibody testing later next week. She said the challenge to date has been the validity of the tests, with false negative and false positive rates quite high.

“When prevalence, the number of people who truly have it in the population, is low that can make a real difference,” she said.

This has required the province to use more than one test to validate every positive result.

Dr. Henry said the first part of the protocol has been completed, using anonymous samples from individuals who gave blood for other reasons. There was also community based sample taken in March and the end of May.

“Very few people have become affected at a population level,” Dr. Henry said.

5:15 p.m.: Quebec tightens measures for bars

The Quebec government is making changes to rules for bars after COVID-19 outbreaks have been linked to these venues.

Although case counts from gatherings at bars in Quebec are still being determined, Dr. Horacio Arruda, director of Quebec public health, said about 66 cases are from the Montérégie area, and around 25 cases are from other locations.

“If we don’t act, those 66 are going to generate another 120, it’s going to be more and more,” Dr. Arruda said.

Health minister Christian Dubé said as of Jul. 10, bars must stop selling alcoholic beverages at 12:00 a.m. and will have to be closed to customers at 1:00 a.m.

The number of people who can be at a bar at one time is being reduced to 50 per cent of their legal capacity and dancing is prohibited, everyone must be seated when consuming alcohol.

Dubé said police officers will be stationed around busy bar areas.

“We need everyone to work together on this, including bar owners and their clients,” the health minister said. “We will, as a government, continue to closely monitor the situation and we will not hesitate to take further action, if required.”

Dr. Arruda explained people in Quebec will voluntarily be able to give their contact information to bars and if a COVID-19 case is identified in that setting, public health will be able to reach them for contact tracing purposes.

“This is confidential information,” he said. “It’s only used if there is a case, nobody is going to ask to have access to this information unless there is a case.”

4:30 p.m.: Many Ontario cases still linked to farms in Windsor-Essex

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, indicated that of the 170 new COVID-19 cases in the province, 86 are from Windsor-Essex, while 27 and from Toronto and 28 from Peel.

Dr. Williams said most cases in Windsor-Essex are from two or three farms, and at least 76 cases are farm workers.

“We may have a day where we actually have less than 100 for the province,” Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said. “And in essence, in one way we do, but in consideration of a very much sequestered outbreak that put us well over.” 

“I’d like to see us continue to have some days reported under 100 [cases].”

When asked if there is a chance that large gathering, like arena concerts, would be able to happen before there is COVID-19 vaccine, Dr. Williams stressed these gathering are very risky.

“We’re open to some ideas but…those are certainly high risk events that we have very little control over,” he said.

Dr. Williams added that physical distancing would have to be in place, which would also require a financial consideration for the business operating the event.

2:50 p.m.: B.C. premier expresses ‘optimism’ on COVID-19 situation, confidence about fall school year

B.C. Premier John Horgan said there are “great reasons for optimism” in the province as there continues to be “relatively low” numbers of new COVID-19 cases.

“Our approach…from the beginning has been coping with the virus,” Horgan said. “Dr. Henry has been pretty clear, it’s here and it’s going to be here until we find a way to eradicate it.”

“In the the interim, we have to find ways to manage and cope with the disease. We’re under no illusion that COVID-19 is gone.”

The premier went on to say he believes bringing students back to school in June has made B.C. “better prepared for September than any other province in the country,” because education officials will have a benchmark to compare to, district by district.

“I listened to the president of the United States talk about his fountain of wisdom and knowledge on what’s best for public education in the United States, and I say I would prefer to talk to school board trustees, superintendents, teachers and parents about what’s in the best interest of their kids,” Horgan said. “That’s what we’ve been doing.”

‘They are not coming this year’

B.C.’s premier said he appreciates that some businesses want restrictions at Canada’s borders to be eased, but maintained that public health is still of the utmost importance.

“They are not coming this year,” Horgan said about international tourists. “It is not just because Canada has said we don’t want to see our border open until we see other countries in the world having the same level of success.”

“This is a global pandemic and I think that we need to remind ourselves of that periodically. I don’t think the dollars that would be invested in the tourist economy are worth the risk to public health.”

1:50 p.m.: Ontario education minister still asking parent to prepare for three different schooling options for September

After being asked several questions about what parents should prepare for in September, Ontario’s Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, maintains school boards across the province must be prepared for three circumstances: online learning, conventional in-class learning and a hybrid model.

“The preference is everyday, convention in-class delivery,” Lecce said. “But the prerequisite has to be safety.”

When asked if parents should begin having a conversation with their employer about the possibility of needing to be home more if at-home learning continues in September, Lecce reiterated that the ministry is working with the chief public health officer to determine a safe way to educate children in Ontario in the fall.

Questions remain about what Stage 3 of reopening will look like

At a press conference on Thursday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford was asked what businesses and services will be able to resume in Stage 3 of the province’s reopening plan.

The premier said the specifics still need to be determined with the provincial health table.

“I don’t have a list in front of me to give you exactly what’s opening,” Ford said. “I want to make sure the health table approves it.”

“It’s going to come very shortly, hopefully sooner than later.”

July 8

6:00 p.m.: COVID-19 questions of the day

6:15 p.m.: ‘Community exposure events’ continue in B.C.

In a written statement from Adrian Dix, B.C.’s Minister of Health, and Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, they confirmed there are no new outbreaks in the province but “community exposure events” continue to occur.

“There has been a community exposure event at the No. 5 Orange nightclub in the Vancouver Coastal Health region,” the statement reads. “Public health teams have issued an alert for anyone who may have been at the premises on July 1.”

The health officials went on to stress that “one slip” can cause a surge of COVID-19 cases and avoiding crowded, closed spaces continues to be important.

“This summer, we can travel within our province, we can enjoy many activities and we can spend time with friends and family,” the statement goes on to say. “We can do this safely by all of us doing our part to keep our curve flat.”

5:00 p.m.: Outbreak at Edmonton hospital

Alberta Health Services has reported Misericordia Community Hospital in Edmonton is under a full facility COVID-19 outbreak.

In order to manage the risks of spreading the virus further, all services will be temporarily close to incoming patients and no patients will be admitted to the hospital. Patients within the hospital will continue to receive the treatment.

At a press conference on Wednesday Dr. David Zygun, medical director with Alberta Health Services, Edmonton zone, said it is too early to know how long these measures will be in place at the hospital as the contact tracing is still ongoing.

“In general, we are in the timeframe of weeks before it resolves,” Dr. Zygun said. “We’re obviously in hours of this stage, and it will really depend on the progression of the outbreak and the cases we identify.”

He indicated the initial wards impacted were medical wards and the hospital will maintain single-sight workers moving forward.

As of Wednesday morning, 20 patients and 15 staff members tested positive for COVID-19. Three deaths linked to the outbreak have occurred, all of the individuals were patients.

4:00 p.m.: Ontario introduces new economic recovery legislation

The Ontario government introduced the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, which would change several pieces of legislation in an effort to boost economic recovery.

This includes changes to the Municipal Act and City of Toronto Act that will allow municipalities to hold virtual meetings, and council members will be able to vote by proxy when absent. It would also amend the Education Act, including broadening the qualification requirements for Director of Education positions and would provide a second-year option for all first-year demonstration school students during the upcoming school year.

It would also amend the Marriage Act, including extensions to the validity of marriage licenses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has touched all Ontarians and created significant hardship for individuals, families and businesses,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said in a statement. “People are relying on our government to help rebuild the province and get people back to work ― and that’s exactly what we’re doing, starting with this new legislation.”

At a press conference on Wednesday, Ford also commented on calls from municipalities for the provincial government to provide more financial assistance. The premier said he is “leading the charge for municipalities” on calls between Canada’s premiers and the federal government.

Ford said he is pushing the federal government to come up with a “fair deal” related to the $14 billion promised by the prime minister for provinces.

“I’m not happy with where we’re going right at this point,” Ford said, adding that Ontario accounts for 38 per cent of the population and should get 38 per cent of the funds being distributed by the federal government.

“I’m not even asking them for more than $14 billion, even though I don’t think it’s enough,” the premier said. “Give us the flexibility and give us per capita and we have a deal.”

1:00 p.m.: Up to 8,900 COVID-19 deaths could occur in Canada by July 17

Public Health Agency of Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada

Newly released short-term forecasting of the COVID-19 pandemic indicates Canada could see between 106,015 and 111,260 cases by Jul. 17. Additionally, up to 8,900 deaths (approximately 200 more than today) could occur by the same date.

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, indicated Ontario and Quebec have made up more than 80 per cent of cases in the country to date.

Public Health Agency of Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada

Looking at the number of cases per 100,000 people across Canada, Ontario and Quebec are still seeing the most, with a significant number of cases identified in northern Saskatchewan, relative to their population size.

Public Health Agency of Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada

Hotspots for COVID-19 cases include Toronto and Montreal, both having large populations and many cases linked to community transmission. Alberta and Saskatchewan have also seen a high number of cases, linked to localized outbreaks.

Public Health Agency of Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada

Canada’s deputy chief public health officer said there has been a “steady decline” in COVID-19 cases since the peak in late April.

“We have been able to impact the pandemic, control transmission nationally and benign the process of entering the next phase of monitoring and preventing a resurgence,” Dr. Njoo said. “I think overall, we’ve done an excellent job.”

Public Health Agency of Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada

The effective reproduction number in Canada, how many people have been infected by each new case, has fluctuated above one recently, but remained fairly steady below one for the course of the last 10 weeks. Dr. Njoo indicated this number needs to consistently remain below one to indicate a slowdown of spread.

He added that as the case numbers continues to decrease, it is “likely” the effective reproduction number will fluctuate rapidly.

Public Health Agency of Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada

The number of COVID-19 cases in Canada’s most elderly has significantly declined since April. However, the decline has been particularly slow in 20 to 39 year-olds since late May.

Public Health Agency of Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada

Canada’s deputy chief public health officer said contact tracing is an important component of preventing the spread of COVID-19, indicating the sooner cases can be identified and isolated, the fewer people they may infect.

The proportion of unknown sources of infection continues to decrease in Canada, which will assist in preventing a surge in infections.

Public Health Agency of Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada

Although Canada is “down the right side of the first peak,” Dr. Njoo said it continues to be important for people across the country to remain vigilant with existing public health measures, particularly while a vaccine is not available. He said if Canada relaxes measures “too much or too soon” the country will see a rapid rebound in COVID-19 cases.

Is COVID-19 airborne?

Dr. Njoo also spoke about recent reports that COVID-19 is airborne, saying the evidence in fact does not classify this particular virus as an airborne disease, based on the medical definition.

“For those of us working in medicine and public health, airborne has a very specific meaning,” he said. “Airborne diseases, usually a very infectious disease in which…the particles, or the virus in this case, can linger in the air for several hours and days and then people can become infected.”

“Let’s say someone who had the virus…left the room and several hours later someone else came into that room and then breathed in the air, they could also get infected. From the evidence, what we’ve seen from the epidemiology and so on, to this point there’s no evidence that COVID-19 is airborne.”

Dr. Njoo indicated a classic example of an airborne disease in measles, which has an effective reproductive number of around 18. Influenza has an effective reproductive number of about one or two, while the early evidence for COVID-19 shows it’s effective reproductive number is up to five.

Canada’s deputy chief public health officer explained the main mode of transmission for COVID-19 is through droplets transmitted in the air when people cough, talk or sing. Many of the droplets are “quite large” and fall to the ground within two metres of an individual, in most cases.

He added that there is a gradient of droplet size and some of the smaller droplets will fall to the ground at a greater distance than larger droplets

11:40 a.m.: Canada’s COVID-19 situation is ‘stabilizing’

Ahead of new national modelling data being released Wednesday afternoon, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said COVID-19 cases in Canada continue to decline.

“The situation is stabilizing in Canada because Canadians did their part and followed public health instructions,” Trudeau said.

The prime minister stressed the COVID-19 situation can quickly change and hotspots still exist in particular areas, including long-term care facilities and agriculture settings.

“We have to remain vigilant, we have to keep following public health advice,” Trudeau said.

‘We took on debt so Canadians wouldn’t have to’

The federal government will share an economic and fiscal snapshot later on Wednesday, which will outline Canada’s economic health as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses.

The prime minister said when this crisis first hit, many Canadians were quickly left without a job and were worried about paying their bills. He said the government had two options, sit back and let Canadians “fend for themselves” or choose to support Canadians.

“We shouldn’t forget that the cost of doing nothing would have been far more to both our health care and our economy,” Trudeau said. “We took on debt so Canadians wouldn’t have to.”

“I know there are people out there who said we should have done less but I think that’s wrong. Now was the time for the federal government to step up and help Canadians during a historic crisis.”

In advance of the release of the economic and fiscal snapshot, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer spoke about the anticipated information, indicating that some reports anticipate this year’s deficit will be $300 billion.

“What we haven’t heard yet is whether or not the Liberals actually have a plan to help get Canadians back to work and our economy back on track,” Sheer said. “Justin Trudeau has made major mistakes and has been slow to act, and his failures have cost Canadians dearly.”

The Conservative Leader said Canadians have been “falling through the cracks” as the federal government was slow to implement and adjust its aid programs during the pandemic.

10:45 a.m.: Curve continues to flatten in Indigenous communities

On Wednesday, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) shared that the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic in Indigenous communities continues to flatten.

As of July 6, there have been 324 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 30 hospitalizations and 274 cases have recovered on First Nations communities.

As of July 3, 1,009 orders for PPE, including hand sanitizers, N95 masks, isolation shields, and gloves were shipped.

“ISC continues to quickly process PPE requests, as effectively as possible, to ensure communities are ready to respond to COVID-19, and to ensure the safety of healthcare workers and others supporting the delivery of health services,” the statement reads.

The federal government continues to recommend the following precautions be taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within these communities.

  • Avoiding all non-essential trips in the community

  • Limiting the size of group gatherings

  • Keeping a distance of at least 2 arms lengths (approximately 2 metres) from others when away from home

  • Wearing a non-medical mask when physical distancing is not possible

  • Limiting contact with people at higher risk, such as Elders and those in poor health, or with underlying health conditions

“As we look ahead with cautious optimism, the priority remains supporting Indigenous leaders as they work to protect the health, safety and prosperity of communities,” the ISC said in a statement.

July 7

5:00 p.m.: P.E.I.’s top doctor strengthens mask recommendation

Dr. Heather Morrison, the chief public health officer of Prince Edward Island, is strengthening the recommendation for people in the province to wear a non-medical mask as the COVID-19 virus persists.

“Up to this point, it has been my recommendation to consider wearing a non-medical mask in places where physical distancing of six feet cannot be maintained,” Dr. Morrison said. “I’m strongly recommending that individuals wear a non-medical mask or face covering in indoor public settings when they are unable to maintain a physical distance of six feet.”

“We know that masks are effective in limiting the spread of COVID-19 and serve to protect others around us.”

P.E.I.’s chief public health officer stressed wearing a mask alone with not prevent the spread of COVID-19, and consistently practicing good hygiene and following public health measures is important. Dr. Morrison said everyone should wash their hands before putting on a mask, before taking off a mask and again once it has been removed.

3:00 p.m.: Ontario proposes new legislation to amend, extend emergency orders

The Ontario government has introduced proposed legislation that would allow the province to extend and amend emergency orders for one year, or up to two years if extended, with plans to end the state of emergency declaration at the end of the month.

Premier Ford said this proposed legislation would allow the provincial government to “move quickly” on issues as the world moves through the COVID-19 pandemic, like working rules in long-term care facilities, guidance around gathering sizes and closure of certain spaces.

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said this would allow the government to “react and respond quickly,” with the understanding that certain restrictions are still needed in order to protect people in Ontario.

Gathering sizes, testing capacity to increase

Ontario’s Minister of Health Christine Elliott said the number of people who can gather is expected to increase when the province moves into Stage 3 of reopening, but specifics around that number are still being worked out.

“You will be able to expect, as time goes on, that the numbers of people involved in a gathering can be increased,” Elliott said.

The health minister also indicated the provincial government will continue to increase its testing capacity, particularly as the summer season transitions to the fall flu season.

“We know that our testing volumes will need to increase as people will unfortunately fall ill, they won’t know if it’s flu or if it’s COVID-19, then they will be going to the assessment centres,” Elliott said.

‘You don’t go to someone’s house’

Premier Ford also responded to renters in Toronto protesting Bill 184 outside Mayor John Tory’s condo building.

Protesters are arguing the Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Community Housing Act would allow landlords to evict tenants who could not pay rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic and takes away the requirement of a Landlord Tenant Board hearing to negotiate rent repayments.

“You don’t go to someone’s house. It’s not fair to the neighbours, it’s not fair to the people in the neighbourhood,” Ford said. “If you want to protest, come down here, protest all day long, come out to city hall.”

“We do have protections for tenants. We’re going after landlords if someone has been wrongfully kicked out of their apartment or condo, whatever it is. I think, politically, they’re spinning it but I’m going to protect the tenants.” 

How do you feel about Canada’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic? Tell us in the comments below?

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