Ontario urges use of face masks, U.S.-Canada border to remain closed

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

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.

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.”

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.

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

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.

June 11

7:11 p.m. COVID-19 questions of the day

7:00 p.m.: COVID-19 and overdose crises have stretched B.C. healthcare resources ‘to the limit’

In an emotional speech to the people of B.C., provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry spoke about the unintended consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, after it was announced that 170 people in B.C. died from overdoses in the month of May.

“I cannot express how difficult this news has been to hear,” Dr. Henry said. “The extent and challenges for these crises that we are facing, both the overdose crisis and on top of that the COVID-19 pandemic, have really stretched our resources to the limit.”

There were 114 overdose deaths in March and 117 in April across B.C.

Dr. Henry went on to say there has been a “dramatic increase” in the toxicity of the street drug supply across B.C. and COVID-19 has made it easier for some people to hide their drug use from others.

“We know that using alone right now is exceedingly deadly,” the provincial health officer said. “The alarms of people missing have not been going off because we have been staying apart to do our best to try and manage the other crisis we’re dealing with.”

“We must all show the compassion that we have shown in addressing the COVID crisis.”

Health minister Adrian Dix also said when people are increasingly alone, it is even more important to reach out and make sure they know that “help is available for them.”

Modification to orders for restaurants

Dr. Henry also announced changes to the public health orders for restaurants, pubs and bars in the province. Instead of the 50 per cent capacity limit, the province is requiring that each establishment identify a number for their capacity, including patios. 

“It will be done in collaboration and we’ll have a defined capacity to understand how better to enforce the rules,” she said.

The order changes also include restrictions around self-serve areas and buffets, and clarifies the use of barriers.

‘No exceptions to the rules’

Dr. Henry also commented on the recent announcements about the resumption of the NHL and the possibility of Vancouver being used as a hub city. She has reviewed the NHL proposal, set to take effect later summer into the fall, and said it “exceeds” the requirements in place, even today.

“Let me be very clear, there are no exceptions to the rules or the public health guidelines that are in effect here in B.C.,” Dr. Henry said. “In no way will we compromise all the work that we have done and the health of British Columbians for the NHL or any other group.”

Teams would have no contact with the public, spectators or with families. They will be in “team bubbles” of less than 50 for the whole time they are in B.C. and would be subject to extensive testing. If somebody did test positive, there would be a plan for how that team will be isolated and tested. 

Manitoba seeks feedback for next phase of reopening

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced the province’s drafted plan for Phase Tree of reopening.

Key aspects of the plan include:

  • Public gatherings of 50 people will be allowed indoors and 100 people outdoors, where members of the public are reasonably able to maintain a separation of at least two metres

  • Residents of western Canada and northwestern Ontario will not need to self-isolate for 14 days when entering Manitoba

  • People employed by or affiliated with a professional sports team or a film production may enter the province without self-isolating for 14 days if they have self-isolated for that time before arriving in Manitoba and follow appropriate hygiene measures while travelling

  • Groups in child care centres can increase to the maximum capacity of the facility

  • Occupancy limits at restaurants and bars are increased to 75 per cent of total capacity

  • Occupancy limits removed for retail businesses

Pallister is urging people in the province to submit their feedback on the proposed changes for Phase Three. The goal is to enter this next phase on June 21.

P.E.I to move into next phase of reopening on June 26

P.E.I’s chief public health officer, Dr. Heather Morrison, said the province will enter Phase 4 of its reopening plan on June 26.

This will include up to 50 people gathering for organized sports and other gatherings (including weddings, funerals, events and festivals), increased visitings at long-term care homes, the resumption of more personal care service and the reopening of casinos.

The size of private gatherings will not change from 15 people indoors and 20 people outdoors.

4:15 p.m.: More people recoveries than new infections in Ontario

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said the province will mostly be evaluating weekly case counts moving forward, in order to provide more guidance on loosening, or reinstating, health measures.

At this point, more people in the province are recovering from COVID-19 than new infections, with less severe cases presenting across Ontario.

Dr. Williams indicated more people in the younger age group are starting to come forward, opposed to the virus mostly impacting older people in the province previously.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health addressed the recent outbreak in farm settings, in Windsor-Essex, Niagara and Haldimand-Norfolk. He said provincial health officials are working to deploy a mobile unit to perform testing in these areas, even at farms and businesses that have not had any outbreaks at this point.

Dr. Williams also commented on the photo of Ontario’s Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott at an LCBO store before she was confirmed negative for COVID-19. He said under normal protocol, she would just have to monitor for symptoms and not self-isolate, or even get tested.

“If you’re actually known contact of a positive case, then you would have to do the isolation and the monitoring accordingly, as per our policies and principles,” Dr. Williams said.

He said if someone has signs and symptoms, they are considered a suspected COVID-19 case and must self-isolate. If someone has come into contact with a known case, they should also get tested and self-isolate. Asymptomatic individuals, with no contact with a known COVID-19 case, do not need to self-isolate, even if they choose to get tested for the virus.

2:10 p.m.: Visitors to be allowed at long-term care homes in Ontario

Beginning on June 18, people in Ontario will be able to visit loved ones in long-term care homes, retirement homes and other care settings, including homes serving people with disabilities, children’s residential settings and shelters for survivors of gender-based violence.

Long-term care homes will allow outdoor visits of one person per resident each week at a minimum. Retirement homes will allow indoor and outdoor visits in designated areas. Other residential care settings will be able to allow outdoor visits of two people at time. 

Physical distancing will be required for all visits and these homes must not be in outbreak. Visitors must pass active screening at every visit and confirm a negative COVID-19 test in the previous two week. They must also clean their hands when they arrive and leave, and will have to wear a mask.

On Tuesday Ontario Premier Doug Ford and minister Christine Elliott were tested for COVID-19, both receiving negative results.

Before her test results were confirmed, Elliott was seen at an LCBO store. When asked about the situation, the minister said she was following the protocol health experts gave her.

“Minister Lecce’s results came back negative before I went for testing,” Elliott explained. “While there was no real need for me to go to be tested, I had made a public commitment to do so and so that’s where I went.” 

“While I was at the assessment centre having the test I was advised that because I had not directly been in contact with anyone with COVID, that I did not need to self-isolate.”

1:10 p.m.: Non-medical masks and eye protection guidance

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, was asked at a press conference on Thursday whether she regrets not advising Canadians to wear non-medical masks sooner in the COVID-19 pandemic. This comes after a study from the World Health Organization (WHO) found they significantly help decrease the spread of the virus.

Dr. Tam said the science around COVID-19 continues to evolve, and as more became known about pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic spread of the virus, Canada updated its recommendations accordingly.

“We were very careful to remind Canadians that this is just one additional layer of protection,” Dr. Tam said, adding this is likely not the end of recommendations from health officials related to COVID-19.

Canada’s chief public health officer was also asked about the use of face shields and goggles to protect people’s eyes.

Dr. Tam said a mask is used to prevent you from transferring your droplets to others, while eye protection is a different concept that relates to prevent any droplets from getting to you.

She said this equipment could be used in particular for more vulnerable populations, like seniors, where are there are increased concerns about them being infected with the virus.

Dr. Tam also indicated there are “active discussions” happening in Canada about COVID-19 impacting the agriculture sector, particular with more recent outbreaks in temporary foreign workers.

She said the approach of testing moving forward may focus on particular populations of the country and preventing the importation of cases, but it is critically important for provinces and territories to share data on testing strategies with the rest of the country.

More details on funding for Indigenous businesses

Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services, provided some additional details about the $133 million in additional funding the prime minister announced earlier on Thursday to support Indigenous businesses.

For Indigenous businesses related to the tourism industry, non-repayable grants of up to $25,000 will be provided.

Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, said before COVID-19 Indigenous tourism businesses were seeing significant growth but as many are quite new, they are even more vulnerable at this time.

Miller said the $117 million for small Indigenous businesses will include support for micro-entrepreneurs, hunter and artisans who are not eligible for mainstream measures.

11:40 a.m.: ‘Playing politics was more important…’

A visibly frustrated Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the government not receiving enough support from the opposition to move forward with debating emergency COVID-19 legislation yesterday.

“Conservatives refused to even allow the House to debate this legislation,” Trudeau said. “It was disappointing to see what happened yesterday in the House.”

“Playing politics was more important than getting this help out to people.”

The bill includes expanding the eligibility for the wage subsidy, new measures to penalize fraudulent claims for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and a one-time $600 payment to Canadians with disabilities.

On Wednesday, Government House Leader Pablo Rodriguez proposed separating out the funding for Canadians with disabilities from the other components of the bill, which was also rejected.

“Despite the unity that Canadians have shown…politics got in the way of actually helping Canadians,” the prime minister said.

Speaking to the people in Canada who would have benefitted from the $600 payment, Trudeau said the federal government “will not give up” and will ensure people with disabilities are not “left behind.”

The prime minister was also asked if the Liberal government would consider having more in-person sittings, a request the Conservatives have been making for weeks. Trudeau stressed the hybrid model with a focus on COVID-19 was agreed upon by Parliament, not something the government decided alone.

“Yesterday, when we proposed a return to normal Parliament to deal with this legislation, the Conservatives said no,” the prime minister said. “They chose not to return to regular proceedings to deal with this piece of legislation and as a result, we’re not going to get the help out to Canadians with disabilities as quickly as we would have liked.”

“Because they didn’t get their way two weeks ago, they continue to complain and play politics and they blocked help to Canadians with disabilities.”

$133 million to support Indigenous businesses

The prime minister also announced $133 million in additional funding to support Indigenous businesses and protect jobs.

This includes $117 million to help small Indigenous-owned businesses and $16 million to support Indigenous businesses in the tourism industry.

June 10

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

6:10 p.m.: Alberta prepares for schools to open in September

Alberta’s education minister Adriana LaGrange announced the province plans to resume in-person schooling in September, but the final decision will be made by Aug. 1.

She said there are three possibilities, in-person learning daily with some health measures in place, partial resumption on in-person schooling, or schools will continue to operate virtually, with staff and students at home.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said masks will not be required when students go back to school, but they can be used if there are any concerns about physical distancing. Other health measures that will be in place include regular screening for symptoms, frequent hand washing and enhanced cleaning measures.

Modified learning could also see a reduction in the number of students per classroom, a maximum of 15 people.

The provincial government will decide under which scenario schools will be able to operate in, not the school boards.

Outbreak at Alberta Hospital

Dr. Hinshaw also announced there is now an outbreak at Alberta Hospital in Edmonton.

Currently, there are four known COVID-19 cases on staff. No patients have been infected with the virus at this point.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said health services became aware of this outbreak late Tuesday afternoon.

5:30 p.m.: B.C. will make a ‘modification’ to quarantine rules for the NHL

B.C. Premier John Horgan said a proposal, in collaboration with the Vancouver Canucks, has been approved by Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, to make Vancouver a hub city for the NHL.

Horgan and Dr. Henry have both written to the federal government to communicate that Vancouver would welcome hosting hockey teams.

“It involves a modification to the quarantine plan that would allow a team to be family entity or a bubble,” Horgan explained.

“Those individuals…would stay together in one hotel, they would travel to the Rogers Arena together in private transportation, any testing would be the responsibility of the club, no interaction with the public would take place for the 14 day quarantine period.”

The premier said now it is in the NHL’s hands to decide if they will move forward with Vancouver’s proposal. The expectation is that there will be one city for the western conference division, and another for the eastern conference group.

“I really believe that British Columbia has a great deal to offer the NHL, particularly the players,” Horgan said. “I can’t think of a better place than British Columbia.”

Film and television productions

For film and television productions in the province, the premier said guidelines are being worked on to allow the industry to resume operations in B.C. The existing quarantine rules would apply to anyone coming to the province to work on a film and television production.

“It would still involve 14 day isolation periods for any talent…producers, director or front-of-camera personnel,” Horgan said.

When asked about B.C.’s overall success battling COVID-19 so far, the premier said the proactive work of provincial health officials paired with the commitment of the public in the province made a significant impact.

“We’ve been successful in British Columbia because largely, Minister Dix and Dr. Henry started out well before this became a public emergency, by informing the public of the challenges that we were facing,” Horgan said. “The number of people who say to me how pleased they are with the direction the government has been going is really humbling.”

“We were given evidence, we followed the evidence and the public responded.”

2:10 p.m.: Ontario premier, minister being tested for COVID-19

The office of the Ontario premier confirmed Doug Ford and Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott are being tested for COVID-19 on Wednesday. This comes after Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, was tested for the virus after learning he had come into contact with someone infected with COVID-19.

“Both will continue to monitor for symptoms and take appropriate action as necessary,” the statement from the premier’s office reads.

In a public statement, Lecce confirmed his test results have come back negative. The education minister said he was notified yesterday that he came into contact with someone with COVID-19 and has been in isolation since.

Ross Romano, Minister of Colleges and Universities, participated in Wednesday’s press conference alone after learning about the matter “minutes” before it began.

“I know our premier is acting out of an extreme abundance of caution and he wants to ensure that everyone on the premises here at Queen’s Park is safe,” Romano said. “This is simply a measure being taken out of an abundance of caution, given the nature of the circumstances we find ourselves in.”

The minister went on to say all members of cabinet have been following social distancing protocols and that all rooms are disinfected “at then end of every night and the beginning of every day” at Queen’s Park.

“I feel very comfortable as I stand before you, and I hold onto this podium and drink my water, that my safety and the safety of all of us here is the number one priority of our premier and of our government,” Romano said.

Plan to resume in-person postsecondary education

Minister Romano announced that beginning in July, some postsecondary students will be able to resume in-person instruction.

He said the first phase of the postsecondary plan applies to “academically stranded students,” defined as students in high labour market demand areas who need to complete in-person learning to graduate. This includes, nursing, engineering and trades programs.

This limited reopening will be done with health and safety protocols in place with a framework to be released in the coming days.

More generally, Romano said the education system needs to be adjusting now that the world has experienced the COVID-19 crisis, particularly with more virtual learning resources.

“We know that the way we deliver education must change in a post-COVID world,” Romano said.

Beaches, campsites opening at Ontario Parks

As a number of regions in Ontario enter Stage 2 of the province’s reopening strategy, beaches and campsite at provincial parks will reopen as well.

The following recreational activities will be permitted, as part of Stage 2:

  • June 12 – beaches at Ontario Parks will begin opening to the public as maintenance and water testing are completed

  • June 15 – campers enrolled in this year’s Ontario Parks’ Seasonal Campsite Program will now have access to their campsites at the majority of participating provincial parks

  • June 22 – all other campgrounds in regions entering Stage 2 will gradually open at provincial parks, along with washrooms, water taps and trailer sanitation stations

  • Roofed accommodations (e.g., yurts, cabins and lodges, where available), park store and rental operations, visitor centres, and sports fields will be phased in over the next several weeks

Facilities like showers, laundry, group camping, picnic shelter rentals and swimming pools will be closed for the rest of the 2020 season.

“Due to the tremendous progress we have made to contain the spread of COVID-19, more services and activities will soon be available at our provincial parks,” Jeff Yurek, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, said in a statement.

“While this is encouraging, it is not business as usual. I encourage everyone to be responsible and continue to follow public health advice, including physical distancing, when enjoying our outdoor amenities.”

12:45 p.m.: Canada-U.S. border measures working ‘really well’

Following reports that Canada-U.S. border restrictions will be extended past the current June 21 expiration date, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said both country’s believe existing measure are working “really well.”

“I think it is worth starting by underlining that the arrangement that we currently have in place are working really well,” Freeland said. Decisions about our border will always be taken by Canadians in the Canadian national interest.”

Canadians paying back CERB

On Wednesday, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) reported that 190,000 repayments of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) were made by Canadians who were not eligible for the aid.

Jean-Yves Duclos, President of the Treasury Board, said “the vast majority of Canadian are honest people” and the “vast majority” of errors were done in good faith.

“Canadians didn’t have the ability to understand perfectly a new program and they applied, sometimes twice, and they received payments in mistake,” Duclos said. “It’s understandable, given that Canadians are honest people…that many of them have already reimbursed their payments.”

“If those reimbursements haven’t been made, there will be no penalties because, as I said, in the vast majority of cases the reimbursement that will be made will be for payments that have been asked for in good faith.”

When asked why it is necessary to introduce penalties and criminal charges for those who were found to have cheated the CERB system, Duclos said there is a “small minority” of fraudsters who take advantage of these situations.

“We expect those severe penalties to apply to very few people but they will apply…to make sure Canadians can keep maintaining their faith in the rigour and the integrity of the benefit programs we have implemented,” the president of the treasury board said.

June 9

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

6:45 p.m.: B.C. health officer ‘disappointed’ by crowds at anti-racism demonstrations

B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said she is “disappointed” by the crowd size at anti-racism protests that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am disappointed because I know there are very effective ways for small groups of people to demonstrate these important issues, and to do it peacefully, and to do it safely,” Dr. Henry said. “We have always taken the approach of support and education.”

She said coming together in smaller groups and keeping a safe distance from each other need to happen in order to “protect our communities.”

Dr. Henry also said B.C. officials working on providing guidance for resuming film and TV productions in the province. She said it is something that needs to be addressed, with particular consideration given to where people are coming from.

In terms of more general travel to the region, Dr. Henry supports continued restrictions on tourists.

“I think we need to be very cautious about allowing people who are here as tourists coming across the border,” the provincial health officer said. “That’s the last thing we need right now, we need to focus on family, we need to focus on essential workers.”

4:00 p.m.: ‘The message I have is that I’m sorry’

As Quebec has now surpassed 5,000 deaths related COVID-19, premier Francois Legault apologized for the tragedy people in the province have experienced.

“The message I have is that I’m sorry,” Legault said. “I’m sorry for the decisions that have been taken or not taken for the last 10, 20 years.”

“Of course, we’re sad for the families that are close to these people.”

The premier went on to say the number of cases coming from long-term care homes and senior facilities has been of particular concern.

“4,500 were coming from those residences so there were clearly some problems…the number of employees, salary they were paid,” Legault said. “I think we really need to change the situation and make sure…what happened will be a lesson for Quebec.”

3:30 p.m.: Alberta enters Stage 2 of reopening on Friday

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced the province will move into Stage 2 of its reopening plan on Friday.

The following operations and services can occur on June 12:

  • K-12 schools for requested diploma exams and summer school

  • Public libraries

  • More surgeries can be conducted

  • Community halls

  • Team sports (sports teams can have regional cohorts of up to 50 people)

  • Wellness and personal services (ex. acupuncture, massage, reflexology, aesthetics, manicures)

  • Movie theatres and live theatre (performers can interact with up to 50 cast members)

  • Indoor sports, recreation and fitness facilities (ex. gyms, pools, arenas)

  • Instrumental concerts

  • Casinos and bingo halls

  • Arcades and video lottery terminals in restaurant and lounges

  • Maximum 100 people for outdoor and indoor seated events (ex. wedding, funeral services, entertainment, sports, conferences)

  • No cap on places of worship for services, only with physical distancing or applied barriers

  • Indoor social events with a maximum of 50 (ex. wedding and funeral receptions with physical distancing)

  • 50 per cent capacity limit for restaurants, bars, cafe, lounges can be lifted, with seating of no more than 6 people per table

  • A cohort of people of up to 15 individuals (groups of people where physical distancing is not always possible)

Kenney said that although several restrictions can be lifted on Friday, no one is “obliged” to participate if they do not feel it is safe.

For anyone in Alberta who is concerned the province is moving too quickly into the next stage of the reopening plan, the premier said Albertans should “keep calm and carry on.”

“Let’s have confidence in the remarkable professionalism of our public health system,” he said. “The issue is not a small increase of positive cases from time to time, the issue is whether or not our healthcare system becomes overwhelmed.”

Alberta’s premier stressed public health guidelines from officials must still be followed moving forward, including physical distancing, hand washing, controlling coughs and sneezes, and wearing a face mask in public, where appropriate.

“I cannot emphasize how important it is to enjoy all these renewed activities while still being diligent about the basics of public health protection,” Kenney said. “Critically, if you have symptoms of or test positive for COVID-19, stay at home and self-isolate for at least 14 days.”

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said the public should consider being extra cautious about preventing spread to more vulnerable individuals, like seniors, who may become more critically ill if they are infected with the virus.

“We need to remain vigilant,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “We must continue to follow public health guidelines.”

2:00 p.m.: Child care centres to open in Ontario

The Ontario government announced child care centres will be able to resume services on Friday.

Specific requirements must in place for these operators, these include:

  • Cohorting ― putting children and staff in groups of 10 or less day over day

  • COVID-19 response plan ― all child care settings will be required to have a plan in place if a child, parent or staff member/provider is exposed to COVID-19

  • Screening ― all staff and children must be screened prior to entry to the child care setting. Anyone feeling unwell must stay home

  • Daily attendance records ― child care settings must keep daily records of all attendees in order to support contact tracing

  • Cleaning ― child care settings must be thoroughly cleaned before opening and frequently thereafter

  • No visitors ― only essential visitors are permitted entry into the child care setting

  • Implementing drop-off and pick-up protocols in a way that facilitates physical distancing

Stephen Lecce, Ontario’s Minister of Education, said he expects some parents in the province will choose to keep their children at home for the time being, assisting child care providers with staying in the capacity limits. Lecce added anyone to chooses to keep their children at home will not not lose their spot and will not have to pay for the service they are not using.

When asked if any additional financial assistance will be given to child care operators, the Minister of Education said there are already tools in place to support these centres, including the wage subsidy program, commercial rent assistance and additional support from the Ministry of Education for fixed costs.

Ontario’s day camps will also be able to resume operations this summer, while overnight camps remain restricted.

Ford on weddings vs. places of worship

Ontario Premier Doug Ford was asked to clarify why churches and places of worship can operate at 30 per cent capacity, while weddings and funerals are still restricted to 10 people. Ford said he was told that “for tracing purposes,” guests at weddings are harder to track than a church where “everyone has to sign in who shows up.”

“I asked the same question,” he said. “When it comes to weddings, people congregate from all over the province, depending on who’s invited.”

Niagara, Haldimand-Norfolk question why they can’t move to Stage 2

When asked why the Niagara region and Haldimand-Norfolk will not be moving into Stage 2 of the reopening plan on Friday, Ford stressed these areas saw a significant spike in cases, many connected to migrant workers.

“When the numbers shoot up our medical team, we have no choice,” Ford said. “We aren’t far behind, if we can get these numbers down, hopefully in the next week or two weeks.”

Specifically related to Haldimand-Norfolk, the premier said he understand the situation if “fluid” but also pointed out mayors in this region previously said they were going to fine cottagers that come to their area but “all of a sudden” they want everyone visit.

“I get it…but you can’t have it both ways,” Ford said.

1:00 p.m.: ‘It is clear that there are asymptomatic cases’

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, commented on the World Health Organization (WHO) walking back comments from Monday that asymptomatic spread of COVID-19 is “very rare.”

“It is clear that there are asymptomatic cases,” Dr. Tam said “Depending on the studies and which populations have been studied, asymptomatic people can represent a significant proportion of cases.”

Canada’s chief public health officer indicated some of these individuals may actually be mildly symptomatic or pre-symptomatic.

“Studies on transmission of the virus from asymptomatic cases are not very easy to do but there are studies that have shown that transmission of the virus from asymptomatic people can occur,” Dr. Tam said. “I think what is still undergoing evolution in terms of the information is to what extent that does occur.”

“The other thing that we know is asymptomatic cases appear to have the same amount of virus in the back of the nose as people who are symptomatic and this together with some of the information to date on the transmission potential is why we have evolved our policy to take into account this possibility.”

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland urged Canadians to keep looking to Canadian experts “first and foremost” for medical advice related to COVID-19.

“The more local the better,” Freeland said.

12:00 p.m.: Trudeau targeting fraudsters ‘deliberately’ scamming CERB system

Following comments from NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh earlier on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended his government’s execution of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and its plan for punishing fraudsters.

“The Canada Emergency Response Benefit was put in place in a way that we knew would maximize the speed at which it would reach the millions of Canadians who needed it,” Trudeau said.

The prime minister indicated the federal government deliberately did not put in a number of barriers to apply upfront, but said there will be “criminals” who try to “deliberately” defraud the system.

“We will make sure that we are punishing people who try to take advantage of this situation,” Trudeau said. “We are not looking at punishing people who made honest mistakes.”

Trudeau highlighted as more people go back to work, he continued to expect more people will transfer from the CERB to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy.

Canada’s economy ‘in a coma’

He also responded about whether the federal government will provide a financial outlook for Canada before Labour Day. Trudeau said the economy is “in a coma” and a state of suspension, and therefore there is too much uncertainly to provide this kind of financial forecast.

“A fiscal update that talked about what our projected revenues or expenditures could be…would be incredibly unreliable,” the prime minister said. “We will continue to be open and transparent about how much we’re spending.”

10:30 a.m.: ‘It seems like the Liberals have adopted the Conservative frame…’

At a press conference on Tuesday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh criticized Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government for the “hypocritical” act of drafting a bill to “criminalize” people who applied for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) while people in Canada, and the rest of the world, fight against over policing of racialized people.

Singh said, as Trudeau symbolically took a knee at the anti-racism protest in Ottawa, the Liberal government was drafting a bill to “punish people who need help, who are desperate, who are struggling” by threatening to put them in jail and give them “massive penalties.” He added this occurred while Liberal MPs urged people to apply for the CERB, indicating no one would be “unduly penalized.”

“That is going to put more vulnerable people at risk, that’s exactly what we should not being doing,” Singh said. “This is wholly irresponsible.”

“It seems like the Liberals have adopted the Conservative frame that you need to make people desperate to get back to work.”

According to The Globe and Mail the draft bill indicated Canadians found guilty of a fraudulent CERB claim could receive a fine of up to $5,000 plus not more than double the amount of the income support payment, or “both the fine and imprisonment for a term of not more than six months.”

He highlighted there is clear evidence that COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted racialized communities in Canada, as will any criminal penalties the federal government puts in place related to CERB applicants.

“We should not be using the criminal justice system in a pandemic,” Singh said. “People would be punished if they applied in good faith.”

“That is going to impact, without a doubt racialized people more than anyone else.”

The NDP Leader added the party wants to see the CERB extended as people are still left without jobs while certain industries remain closed, and he wants to see more movement from the federal government on paid sick days for all Canadians.

June 8

7:10 p.m.: COVID-19 questions of the day

7:00 p.m.: ‘Summer holidays and travel will be different this year’

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, addressed people in the province who want to make summer travel plans.

“Like other activities during our COVID-19 pandemic, summer holidays and travel will be different this year,” Dr. Henry said. “I am encouraging all of us to be respectful of the communities that we plan to visit and to be safe as we enjoy the many beautiful locations that we have here in British Columbia.”

She said it is important for local travellers to understand they are “not leaving COVID-19 behind” and urged individuals to contact the local tourism association to find out what services are available.

Dr. Henry stressed anyone who is ill, or has been in contact with someone who is ill, should not be travelling at all. If an individual becomes symptomatic while travelling, they should self-isolate away from others, wherever they are.

B.C.’s provincial health officer said everyone in the province should continue to make sure that connections are kept small to help public health manage cases and clusters.

Both Dr. Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix both commented on the federal government’s recent announcement on the travel exemption for immediate family members separated by the Canada-U.S. border.

Dr. Henry has pushed for a family unification exception to existing travel restrictions for some time, but also stressed that following existing public health measures, including the 14-day isolation rule, is still imperative.

Dix highlighted “upticks” in COVID-19 cases in nearby American states, like Arizona, are still “profound” for people and lifting any additional travel measures is not desirable at this point.

“That’s a significant situation that continues to be a problem for us in terms of the generation reopening, or the reopening of borders to visitors anytime soon,” Dix said.

5:30 p.m.: Indoor gatherings allowed, restaurants opening in Quebec

Quebec officials indoor gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed in the province starting June 15. For people in Montreal, Joliette and L’Epiphanie, indoor gatherings of the same size can begin on June 22.

On the same dates, in-person dining can resume at restaurants in the province, Food and Agriculture Minister André Lamontagne said on Monday.

The province has established a number of guidelines for the reopening of these establishments, including installing physical barriers, frequent hand washing, limiting the number of customers, and displaying menus on a screen or a wall.

Staff will be required to wear a face covering if they cannot maintain a safe distance. Social distancing will need to be maintained between customers as well.

‘I know it has been tempting to believe we can relax all precautions’

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, revealed there are now six confirmed COVID-19 cases related to the Sofina Foods processing facility in Edmonton.

All cases and close contacts are now self-isolating at home, but she indicated this was an instance of physical distancing and mask wearing rules not being followed consistently.

“I know it has been tempting to believe we can relax all precautions,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “Unfortunately, this is not the case.”

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health also urged anyone in the province who participated in an anti-racism demonstration to go for testing, whether they are symptomatic or not.

“The freedom to protest is a critical one and yet we face a challenge in this time of pandemic to do so without risking super spreader events,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “We need to think creatively about how we hold space for voices that need to be heard.”

She added that contact tracing following these large events is difficult so anyone who was at a protest should be mindful of their actions, keep at least two metres away from others and wear a face covering when that is not possible.

The province plans to announce the next step of its relaunch plan later this week, but the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers have been given the go-ahead to begin practice in their home hockey arenas.

4:30 p.m.: ‘Bubbling’ of close contacts, province wide, still promised in Ontario

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said he hopes to bring some information forward this week about possibly “bubbling” households, following the announcement that some regions of the province will move into the next stage of reopening on Friday.

He indicated this is a “very important” measure to include as there are concerns about the “social wellbeing” of people in the province who need that “closer family contact.”

“It takes a good amount of communication to get that clearly out to the public, what do we mean in Ontario and what’s the Ontario version of bubbling,” Dr. Williams said. “We want to use this concept of social bubbling as a continual incremental growth process over the next number of steps.”

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said this would be a “province-wide” measure, once implemented, as opposed to regionally executed.

More young people testing positive for COVID-19

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, indicated there is an increasing number of young people being infected with COVID-19 in the province.

“I would think part of it is that we’ve opened up testing to people with less severe symptoms, in fact with no symptoms, and so we’re probably picking up milder cases in young people,” Dr. Yaffe said. “It might be exposure in the community somehow.”

She added it is “hard to say” where these cases are coming from because the province does not have a breakdown of exposure sites by age group.

1:45 p.m.: Restaurants, hair salons, shopping malls and more to reopen in parts of Ontario on Friday

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced 24 regions in the province will be able to move into Stage 2 of reopening on Friday.

Exempt regions include Toronto, Halton, York, Durham, Peel, Hamilton, Windsor-Essex, Niagara, and Haldimand-Norfolk. Areas of the province that can reopen include Ottawa, Kingston, Peterborough and Waterloo.

The limit on social gatherings has been expanded from five to 10 people for all regions, both inside and outside, with the two-metre physical distancing rule still in place.

The following businesses and services are permitted to reopen in Stage 2:

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

  • Select personal services 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

  • Tour and guide services, such as bike and walking, bus and boat tours, as well as tasting and tours for wineries, breweries and distilleries

  • Water recreational facilities such as outdoor splash pads and wading pools, and all swimming pools

  • Beach access and additional camping at Ontario Parks

  • Camping at private campgrounds

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

  • Drive-in and drive-through venues for theatres, concerts, animal attractions and cultural appreciation, such as art installations

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

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

Premier Ford said there will be no travel restrictions in place across the province, including travel to camp grounds and cottage country.

Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, said the province will provide a progress report every Monday on the public health units remaining in the first stage.

“If public health indicators improve at a local level, regions will be given the green light to enter Stage 2 that following Friday,” Elliott said.

She added the province is still looking at the possibility of “bubbling” close contacts in Ontario but for the time being, physical distancing must be maintained between households.

1:00 p.m.: Family members crossing into Canada from the U.S. must stay for at least 15 days

Following the announcement from the prime minister, Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, provided additional details on the travel exemption being made for family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents across the Canada-U.S. border.

Mendicino said as of midnight on Monday, only “immediate family members” can cross into Canada through this exemption, defined as spouses, common law partners, dependent children, legal parents, step-parents and guardians.

These individuals must also stay in Canada for a minimum of 15 days, quarantining in the country for 14 days. Each traveller must still have a valid visa or travel authorization to enter Canada.

“The immediate family exemption does not mean the border will now be open to weekend travellers,” Mendicino said.

He added this does not apply to immediate family members of temporary residents in Canada but there is “residual discretion” to assess circumstances of possible “necessary” travel related to these individuals.

‘It is quite a difficult situation to control’

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, and Dr. Howard Njoo, deputy chief public health officer, both indicated anyone participating in a protest or demonstration during the COVID-19 pandemic should wear a mask in large crowds and should have hand sanitizer with them at all times.

Dr. Tam also indicated each individual must consider their own personal risk for developing a more severe illness, should they be infected with COVID-19 in these settings.

“It is quite a difficult situation to control and I think public health will be watching very carefully for any increases in transmission,” Canada’s chief public health officer said.

She added anyone who attended one of these events should monitor for symptoms and if individuals are concerned about possibly being exposed, they should contact their local public health unit to get tested “as needed.”

Dr. Njoo said just because someone tests negative at this point, a positive result could still appear days later, so a second test may be required for certain individuals.

12:00 p.m.: ‘Limited exception’ being made to U.S. border rules for family reunification

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced immediate family members of Canadian citizens or permanent residents will be allowed to cross the Canada-U.S. border.

He stressed that although this “limited exception” will be made, anyone entering the country must quarantine for 14 days or they will face “serious penalties.”

Trudeau was also asked several questions about anti-racism protests in Canada, including one in Ottawa which the prime minister participated in, and whether there are concerns about a possible spike in COVID-19 cases related to these events.

The prime minister said a lot of people are wondering “what exactly is the right thing to do” but stressed that in addition to physical distancing, measures like contact tracing, exposure notification and adequate testing are essential in preventing a future surge in cases.

“We need to bring in other measures as well to make sure we can handle any resurgence,” Trudeau said.

The prime minister also highlighted he wore a mask the whole time when he was at the protest and tried to stay as far away as possible from others in the crowd. Trudeau added he is “open” to getting tested, if necessary, and indicated it was “important” for him to be part of that demonstration, even during the COVID-19 crisis.

June 5

6:15: COVID-19 questions of the day

6:00 p.m.: Alberta to determine next stage of reopening next week

Alberta will be updating visitation guidelines for acute outpatient and inpatient settings to allow some visitation, “while maintaining specific criteria,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said.

Dr. Hinshaw stressed this applies to hospital settings, with existing guidelines on visitation in continuing care settings all remain in place. Visitors will be asked to wear a masks, and should prepare regular and frequent hand hygiene.

The province is expected to provide an update early next week on moving to stage two Alberta’s reopening plan.

Dr. Hinshaw said in order for the province to move to the next stage, hospitalizations due to COVID-19 over the two weeks prior to the date of relaunch must be declining or not have increased day-over-day by more than 2.5. percent. Additionally ICU capacity for COVID-19 must be at less than 50 per cent.

She said Albert is “easily” meeting those metrics and the province’s decrease in cases is “incredibly encouraging.”

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health also said anyone participating in protest should try to stay two metres away from others and wear a mask if that’s not possible. Anyone with possible COVID-19 symptoms should stay home.

“We are continuing to watch the results, not just of protests but all of our relaunch activities to determine what activities are the highest risk and which activities could possibly go ahead,” Dr. Hinshaw said.

Mandatory mask wearing in New Brunswick

As of Tuesday, June 9 people in New Brunswick must wear a face covering when entering a building open to the general public.

The province specifically highlights the mouth and nose must be covered.

Children under the age of two, kids of any age attending licensed early education and childcare facilities, and those unable to wear a face covering due to medical issues are exempt. 

2:00 p.m.: Ford wants $23 billion for Ontario’s COVID-19 recovery

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he supports the federal government providing funds to provinces and territories to support COVID-19 recovery, but stressed the need in Ontario is much larger than the $14 billion promised, totalling $23 billion.

“Today’s announcement from the federal government, it must be the start of the conversation, not the end,” Ford said. “$14 billion for all of Canada, it won’t solve the problem. $14 billion for all of Canada just won’t cut it.”

“Your tax dollars…$13 billion are going to the federal government and all we’re asking is our fair share of the federal transfers.”

He added the provinces and territories need the flexibility to spend federal funds wherever each region needs it most. For example, Ford does not support federal aid going towards paid sick days.

“I don’t support it, we have legislation that protects jobs of people if they don’t feel safe, they don’t have to go into work,” the premier said.

He added it is a priority for B.C. but there was “not too much take up” from other premiers across Canada. Ford indicated he would rather put that money towards long-term care or to support municipalities.

1:00 p.m.: ‘We are not going to quibble about federal, provincial responsibilities’

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland was asked several questions at a press conference on Friday about how the federal government with distribute the $14 billion to provinces and territories, particularly when many of the initiatives supported by this funding is within provincial and territorial jurisdiction.

“We are not going to quibble about federal, provincial responsibilities,” Freeland said, stressing this is not a long-term plan but something that has been established with a six- to eight-month trajectory.

She said the federal government understands many of these areas fall under provincial jurisdiction but also pointed out the Canadian economy is in a “very difficult spot right now.”

“The important thing from our perspective is to ensure we have the conditions here in Canada for a safe and effective restart of the economy,” Freeland said. “We understand that a safe restart is essential and it is expensive.”

The deputy prime minister also referenced Canada’s May job numbers, which shows women have been harder hit by the impact of COVID-19. She called it a “she-cession” and said a “she-covery” is needed in Canada, with a focus on supporting women.

“The particularly nature of this economic crisis is it hits women particularly hard,” Freeland said. “A key element of the restart…needs to be childcare because for women, for mothers, without child care it’s impossible for them to go back to work.”

Health considerations for protests, demonstrations across Canada

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, also spoke about the health considerations for protests and demonstrations happening across Canada.

She said public health official are “watching carefully” because these close environments can increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Dr. Tam urged anyone who is feel ill or has possible COVID-19 symptoms to stay home and support virtually. For those who do want to participate in person, they should make sure they have hand sanitizer or access to hand washing, make an effort to keep a two metre distance from others and wear a non-medical face mask.

Anyone who participates should monitor for symptoms in the following days.

12:00 p.m.: $600 payment to Canadians with disabilities, $14 billion offered to help Canadians get back to work

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canadians with disabilities will receive a one-time, non-taxable payment of up to $600.

“Whether it’s buying PPE, or covering the cost of support workers, many Canadians with disabilities are facing unexpected bills that can be hard to pay,” Trudeau said.

The prime minister added the federal government will establish a national workplace accessibility stream, to help people with disabilities “find and keep a good job.” The government will also fund five new projects to help people get supportive devices to “overcome barriers in the workplace.”

Trudeau also announced the federal government has offered $14 billion to help provide “more of the things that all Canadians need.” These funds will be targeted towards specific standards for reopening the economy in each province and territory.

The prime minister highlighted this funding will include more personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, additional PPE for businesses, child care for parents who are going back to work, “immediate assistance” to seniors and most vulnerable people, up to 10 paid sick days for people who do not already have this benefit through their employer, and support for public transit and community programs with municipalities.

“We are proposing a standard of support to keep every Canadian…safe and health, Trudeau said.

The prime minister was also asked about Canadians who are still stranded away from the country, hoping to be repatriated back to Canada.

Trudeau highlighted the federal government has facilitated hundreds of repatriation flights for tens of thousands of Canadians, and has worked to facilitate loans for Canadians “stuck overseas.”

“We will continue working with them as best we can to help them out,” the prime minister said.

When questioned about the lack of race-based information in Canada on COVID-19 cases, Trudeau said the country needs to “do much better” to understand “where things are hitting hardest in this COVID-19 crisis,” He said at the beginning of the pandemic, Canada collected the number of cases without even having age or gender information.

June 4

7:00 p.m.: B.C. breaks down where COVID-19 cases came from

B.C. Ministry of Health

Latest modelling data from British Columbia includes genomic epidemiology, which tracks where viruses or bacteria comes from. Each dot in the chart is about 700 to 800 of the viruses that have been isolated from swabs and the genome of the virus has been sequence to understand where it’s closely related to.

“Viruses, when they replicate, they change slightly,” Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, said. “This is not a very fast changing virus so we can tell where it’s come from by how many changes there are in the genetic pattern.”

“Then we share those around the world and we compare, and we can see…where the virus may have originated.”

Dr. Henry outlined at the beginning of the pandemic, cases were mainly linked to China. In February, someone who travelled from Iran to the province was identified as COVID positive, introducing this new strain in B.C.

The initial cases linked to the Europe and Eastern Canada sequence were introduced during a dental conference held in Vancouver, with one person having recently travelled to Germany. At least 87 cases in B.C. were directly linked to the dental conference but this genomic sequencing found there were likely several people who were ill, as there were three “slightly different” strains of a virus related to that setting.

“It was certainly an event that seeded a number of different areas of the province at a critical time when we were also getting a lot of transmission related to travel back and forth across our borders,” Dr. Henry. “It was timing as much as anything, I cannot say that it was the only thing that caused our pandemic, by any means.”

Washington State-like genome sequences were identified later in the pandemic.

B.C. Ministry of Health

Dr. Henry described initial COVID-19 cases in the province as “linear,” meaning they “didn’t cause a lot of exponential growth, so they weren’t being transmitted.” Around Mar. 10, there was a “rapid rise” in the Washington State-like and European-like virus strains, including people travelling back into Canada from other countries, causing outbreaks.

B.C. Ministry of Health

Dr. Henry has indicated B.C. will want to stay around 50 to 60 per cent contact rate in order to prevent a future surge of COVID-19 cases in the province.

“That is why we are taking our thoughtful and measures approach to our restart here,” Dr, Henry said.

B.C. Ministry of Health

The province also introduced a new type of modelling based on data about how different age groups interact in B.C. It shows that even if children were as susceptible to COVID-19 as adults, its known they are “less likely” to be infected, opening schools would still have a minimal impact on transmission, as long as safe distancing is still in place and schools are equipped to prevent transmission.

B.C. Ministry of Health

Dr. Henry said she has a new mantra as the province continues to move forward in the COVID-19 pandemic, “minimize, manage and modify.” She said B.C. needs to minimize the number of new cases, actively manage cases, and modify provincial measures as needed.

“We need to assess our risks everyday, every step and we need to follow our rules,” Dr. Henry said. “Stay home and away from others if we’re sick.”

New Brunswick starts next phase of reopening on Friday

New Brunswick will move to the next phase in its recovery plan on Friday, except the Campbellton, which has seen a recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

As of Friday, the following items will be allowed to resume in most of the province:

  • Indoor gatherings in private homes of 10 people or fewer

  • Outdoor public gatherings of 50 people or fewer with physical distancing

  • Religious services, including wedding and funerals, of 50 people indoors or outdoors with physical distancing

  • Elective surgeries and other non-emergency health-care services will increase

  • Outdoor visits with up to two visitors for residents in long-term care facilities with physical distancing

  • Low-contact team sports 

  • Swimming pools, saunas and waterparks (gathering limit of 50 people per separate activity area) can open

  • Gyms, yoga and dance studios can resume operations

  • Rinks and indoor recreational facilities can open (gathering limit of 50 people per separate activity area, and gathering limit of 50 spectators)

  • Pool halls and bowling alleys can resume operations

As on June 19, Canadians who own property in New Brunswick will be able to enter the province but must self-isolate for 14 days. Canadians with immediate family in New Brunswick will be able to do the same, also withe the self-isoaltion requirement.

Baseball, soccer to start in Quebec next week

People who play soccer and baseball in Quebec will be able to resume these sports outside beginning on June 8.

Competitive games for these sports will not be able to be played until the end of June. Physical distancing rules must still be followed.

Isabelle Charest, Quebec’s minister for sports and leisure, stressed rules that people are used to with these sports will have to be adapted to continue to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

5:00 p.m.: Update on ‘bubbling’ in Ontario to come next week

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said he hopes to have an update next week on “bubbling” of contacts – the inclusion of people outside their own household – in the province.

Out of the 356 COVID-19 cases reported on Thursday, 300 are from the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health explained many new cases have been liked to known outbreaks, with under 30 per cent of cases not epidemiologically linked.

Dr. Williams indicated many of the cases in the daily updates earlier in the week, on Monday and Tuesday, were linked to outbreaks between temporary foreign workers in Haldimand-Norfolk and Niagara areas.

He said he would not be opposed to testing all of these workers in Ontario but at the moment, testing has been focused on individuals linked to particular facilities. Dr. Williams added it is also important to bring some domestic farm workers in for testing, as they can quickly infect the migrant groups, who are usually working and living in close quarters.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford repeated his previous statements on Thursday highlighting that the province provided $2 million to farmers to supply appropriate protective equipment to temporary foreign workers.

“I have confidence in the farming community, they’re going to do everything they can,” Ford said.

New Council for challenges facing youth

The province announced the Premier’s Council on Equality of Opportunity on Thursday, a new advisory group that will provide advice on “how young people can overcome social and economic barriers and achieve success.”

It will also have a focus on supporting vulnerable and marginalized youth during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Through this council we will bring together a diverse group of leaders, experts and youth members who will offer the insights to our government that we need to make the impact that communities demand and deserve,” Jamil Jivani, Ontario’s Advocate for Community Opportunities and chair of the council said.

“We will advise premier Ford on how to best help young workers from disadvantaged communities succeed in a changing economy. Through this council, we will continue working toward a more just and more fair society.”

When asked if the announcement of this new council is liked to the recent demonstrations following the death of George Floyd in the U.S. and Regis Korchinski-Paquet in Toronto, Jivani said this has been in the works for months.

“The timing, I think, is a reflection that these issues do not just exist when everyone’s paying attention,” Jivani said. “The problems with inequality in our province have existed for decades.” 

Dr. Jane Philpott to help with Ontario’s COVID-19 response

The Ontario government has also appointed Dr. Jane Philpott as the special advisor to support the design and implementation of the new Ontario Health Data Platform.

This data platform, developed in consultation with the Ontario Privacy Commissioner, will gather information to help increase detection of COVID-19 cases in the province, discover risk factor for vulnerable populations, help predict when outbreaks will occur and evaluate how preventative measures are working.

“Whether on the frontlines of health care or as a medical educator or in this new role as special advisor, I’m honoured to be part of Ontario’s fight against COVID-19,” Dr. Philpott said in a statement. “This integrated data platform is an essential element in the province’s response to the pandemic.

“I look forward to watching how it will facilitate a broad range of health research and support quality improvements in clinical care.”

1:15 p.m.: Canada could see more than 107,400 COVID-19 cases and 9,400 deaths by June 15

A breakdown of COVID-19 cases across the country.

The latest modelling data on COVID-19 in Canada is encouraging, showing the country is continuing to make progress, with a low in many communities, with the ability to trace where they came from.

“That’s an encouraging sign that the virus is slowing, and in places even stopping. But I want to be clear, we are not out of the woods, the pandemic is still threatening the health and safety of Canadians,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadians.

The projected short-term epidemic trajectory, which uses actual case data, estimates Canada could see between 97,990 to 107,454 cases by June 15.

Public Health Agency of Canada

It also shows the country could see between 7,700 to 9,400 COVID-19 deaths by the same date.

National trends reflect a series of regional epidemics

The second wave still looms

Public Health Agency of Canada

The dynamic models presented show as exiting restrictions are lifted, core public health measures must be maintained in order to prevent a surge in COVID-19 cases in the fall, until a vaccine is widely available. These core measures include personal physical distancing, detection and isolation of cases, and tracing and isolating contacts.

“At the end of the day, it all depends on what Canadians do across the country,” Dr. Howard Njoo, Canadian deputy chief public health officer said. “If we do that as a country then I think we’re in a good shape and not going to have this resurgence of cases in the fall.”

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, stressed the country is seeing “regional epidemics,” with 90 per cent of cases over the last 14 days coming from Ontario and Quebec, primarily in and around Toronto and Montreal.

Public Health Agency of Canada

The effective reproduction number (Rt) nationally has remained under one for nearly two weeks. Federal health officials have indicated any increases in this rate over the past month has largely been driven by ongoing transmission around Toronto and Montreal.

“We will need to keep Rt consistently below one for more than three weeks before we can be sure that our public health measures are effectively controlling the pandemic,” Dr. Tam said.

Public Health Agency of Canada

Aside from regional differences in the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, there are a number of more specific communities that have been identified more vulnerable to the virus.

“COVID-19 has exploited social and economic vulnerabilities, and inequality,” Dr. Tam said.

She went on to say there is a disproportionate number of cases in overcrowded areas, communities with lower incomes and health disparities. Crowded spaces can lead to what Dr. Tam called “larger cluster” or “super spreading” events.

Canada’s chief public health officer said although national information on ethnic specific data is not available at this point, the outbreaks that have been present to date have shown links with racialized populations and communities with more crowded living spaces.

“The outbreaks themselves, when we looked at them, points to the fact that a lot of the workers who support long-term care, who work at some of the workplaces like the meatpacking plants, are in those populations who are in a lower socioeconomic spectrum,” Dr. Tam said. “They have more crowded housing and they are in some of the racialized populations. We can tell that there’s a disproportionate impact.” 

11:45 a.m.: Seniors to get additional one-time aid payment week of July 6

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced seniors in Canada will receive the one-time Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) top-up aid on the week of July 6.

Seniors who are eligible for OAS will receive $300 and those eligible for the GIS will receive an additional $200.

“If you are one of the 2.2 million elders receiving both OAS and GIS, you’ll get an additional $500 to help you with everyday expenses,” Trudeau said. “This COVID crisis is tough on seniors and that’s why these additional funds will make a difference, with up to $900 for single seniors and up to $1,500 for couples.”

The prime minister also said new modelling data on COVID-19 will be released later on Thursday, teasing Canada is “continuing to make progress.”

He said there are many areas with a low number of cases that can call be traced, with active cases even stopping entirely in some regions.

Trudeau did still maintain COVID-19 is a threat and everyone across the country should still maintain safe physical distancing measures, frequently wash their hands and wear a non-medical face mask when it is not possible to keep two metres away from others. 

10:45 a.m.: Toronto preparing for reopening, expansion of patios for restaurants

Toronto Mayor John Tory announced the CafeTo program to help restaurants and bars in the city restart patio service. He described it as a “quick start” program to make it easier for these businesses to open and expand their patio space, and to make more room for physical distancing.

The program will provide more outdoor area for dining and the consumption of beverages by identifying space in the public right of way that can be used. The city is expediting the current permitting process for sidewalk cafe and parklets, and will be waving expanded patio fees.

Tory said “active discussions” with province are being had, particularly with regards to liquor laws. The mayor said there is a “mutual desire” to “cut red tape” and the province is keen to support this initiative.

Tory said, in advance of the province lifting the current order on any in-person dining at restaurants and bars, those with existing patios can get ready to open. More details on how to register for additional patio and parklet space will be shared in the coming days.

When asked if there are sections in the city identified as having good potential for expansion, the mayor said there has been particular interest in the downtown and midtown areas but he hopes more people in suburban regions will want to take advantage of this program as well.

Toronto mayor ready to play on Doug Ford’s team against commercial rent evictions

Tory also responded to questions about commercial rent evictions in the city and landlords not taking advantage of the rent relief program, which allows property owners to receive 75 per cent of what they would collect for rent from tenants.

“I’ve been calling for some time for a ban on commercial evictions,” Tory said. “I saw premier Ford saying he’s ready to play hardball on this, well I’m on his team, if he’s got some team sweaters to be issued I’ll wear one, happily.”

“I think the time for the hardball has come…This is a program to help you, it’s time to say there will be no evictions.”

June 3

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

6:15 p.m.: Alberta could move into next stage of reopening earlier than expected

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, confirmed she has taken forward considerations for “perhaps moving forward the stage two of relaunch a little bit earlier.”

Dr. Hinshaw said some final discussions are still taking place but an announcement would be expected early next week.

She also said there has been a “slow, steady rise” in the total number of tests being conducted in Alberta. Dr. Hinshaw said close to 5,000 tests were processed in the last 24 hours and only 19 new cases were discovered.

“This is helping us confirm…the majority of the province has very few active cases,” the chief medical officer of health said.

Dr. Hinshaw also indicated more information is still required related to antibodies and immunity to COVID-19 through serology testing. She said it is important to understand if someone who has been infected with COVID-19 has immunity and for how long.

“Alberta’s provincial laboratory is in the final stages of validating a number of different type of serology tests,” Dr. Hinshaw said.

She said initially, these tests will be used for research purposes “to determine the proportion of Albertans who have been exposed to COVID-19.”

“Serology test are not used to diagnose an active infection  but rather a past infection,” Dr. Hinshaw said, adding that the province’s focus remains on diagnosing active infections and preventing spread.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health advised people in the province to be “very cautious” about products being marketed as home serology tests.

“These tests may not be accurate and could produce false results, either false positive or false negative,” she said.

Domestic tourism in B.C. will ‘break records,’ premier says

British Columbia Premier John Horgan commented on the status of the cruise and tourism industry, and how that will impact the province.

“I think that the industry has taken a bit of a black eye through this period,” Horgan said about cruises.

He said the market will decide the fate of the cruise industry but he’s not sure how many people are waiting to get back on these ships with a number of COVID-19 outbreaks linked to cruises.

“It’s going to be a challenging period,” Horgan said.

The premier also indicated he does not see value in having public health measures loosened on a regional basis in B.C.

As Horgan anticipates domestic tourism and travel by British Columbians within their own province will increase, he said these travel patterns will “break records” this year, while international travel still remains problematic.

2:15 p.m.: Ontario considering loosening restrictions on patios, ‘bubbling’ of contacts

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said as the province looks at a regional approach to the next stage of reopening, considerations are being made to open patios.

Ford said the health table is currently looking at loosening these restrictions and the decision should be made “within the week.”

Ontario’s Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott said provincial officials are also considering increasing the number of people who can gather, currently set to five people. She said the province is currently “looking at what the appropriate number is” for a gradual expansion.

Elliott said the province continues to move forward with identifying hot spots for COVID-19 spread, which will impact any future loosening of public health measures.

“We’re looking at where there might be hotspots, where there might be breakouts, where we can send out mobile teams…to deal with some of those hotspots,” she said.

Surgeons may have to be transferred to other hospitals

As the province continues to manage outbreaks in long-term care homes, Elliott said Ontario will continue to has hospital staff redeployed to assist in these facilities, particularly when military personnel leave.

She said this could mean some surgeons may have to be moved to other hospitals to continue with some medical procedures, while filling the gaps for hospital healthcare workers stationed in long-term care homes.

Ford provides limited details on outbreaks between temporary foreign workers

Premier Ford spoke about the recent outbreak in migrants workers in Ontario, with 164 cases in Norfolk County. One 31-year-old temporary foreign worker has died in Windsor after working at Woodside Greenhouses Inc., a pepper farm in Kingsville.

Ford said 137 farms have been inspected to date and more will continue. When asked if he can confirm these individuals have adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), as they work and live in close quarters, the premier said the farms received $2 million to buy PPE “and hopefully the farmers have.”

$150 million for broadband services

The Ontario government also announced $150 million will be invested in broadband and cellular service in rural, remote and underserved areas.

This is part of Ontario’s $315 million initiative called Up to Speed: Ontario’s Broadband and Cellular Action Plan.

“As we carefully restart the economic engine of Canada, every region and every community will play a role in bringing jobs and prosperity back to our province,” Ford said in a statement. “By investing in reliable broadband and cellular service, we are helping to create greater opportunity for our families, farmers and small business owners in rural and remote areas of this great province.”

1:00 p.m.: Rules for face coverings for transportation workers

Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, said effective Thursday, existing requirement in the aviation sector for face coverings for passengers will extend to flight crews and airport workers in restricted areas of a terminal, when they are not able to physically distance. An exception is being made for pilots while on the flight deck.

Garneau said it is also recommended that rail operators make face coverings available for all workers and ensure that they are worn whenever possible, “keeping safety in mind.”

Rail operators can also ask passengers to wear a face covering when physical distancing cannot be maintained.

COVID-19 has ‘drawn our attention’ to racism against Asian people in Canada

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland commented on racism in Canada at the press conference on Wednesday, particular with relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think the coronavirus has also drawn our attention to racism against people of Asian descent,” Freeland said. “We have to take it seriously in our country.”

She also went on to discuss the recent reports from long-term care homes in Ontario and Quebec, saying it is right for Canadians to be “very concerned” about this “historic” reports from military officials.

“We are committed to working…closely with province and territories to really profoundly transform long-term care in Canada,” Freeland said. “What we have learned has been happening cannot continue, we have to make it better and we will.”

“It’s important to do this work in close collaboration with the province, it does fall under their jurisdiction.”

June 2

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

7:00 p.m.: ‘Testing…can be unreliable’

Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s provincial health officer, said some businesses in the province have been looking to incorporate testing and screening for COVID-19 in their operations, but she stressed this should not be the only measure in place.

“Testing does not replace the many steps that are required to keep everybody safe,” Dr. Henry said. “Testing…right now, can be unreliable, particularly for people who don’t have symptoms or have very mild symptoms that they may not even recognize.”

The provincial health officer did go on to say testing can help be helpful with identifying people who are positive and rapidly isolating individuals.

She also spoke about serology testing, indicating work is still being done to understand what antibodies mean. For example, how long immunity lasts and how many antibodies are required for an individual to be immune.

Dr. Henry said the province will also determine who should be prioritized for a serology test when they are made available, including people who are epidemiologically linked to a case or individuals who had a “COVID compatible illness” during the previous few months.

There is also a research project with random serology samples from different age groups of people in B.C.

$120 million distributed to frontline workers in Manitoba

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced the province has committed $120 million to provide additional funds to frontline workers.

This payment is available to workers who were employed on a part-time or full-time basis from March 20 until May 29, who either worked a minimum 200 cumulative hours or would have worked that amount but had to self-isolate.

Each person’s total pre-tax employment income during the eligibility period must be less than $6,250, $2,500 per month for 2.5 months, and they cannot be enrolled in the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

The premier said about 100,000 people would be eligible, with about $1,000 distributed per person.

Workers eligible for this one-time benefit includes store shelf stockers, retail salespersons, cashiers, cooks, security guards, light-duty cleaners in retail facilities, early childhood educators, licensed home-based child-care providers, social workers, nurses and nurse practitioners, paramedics, health-care aides, community services workers, correctional officers, and long-distance truck drivers and bus drivers.

Online applications will be accepted starting Wednesday, with the deadline set to June 18. The province will issue payments via direct deposit.

Quebec to recruit, train orderlies

The Quebec government has launched a new program to recruit 10,000 orderlies to work at long-term care facilities in the province by September.

“Our goal is to mobilize 10,000 people to take care of our most vulnerable,” premier Francois Legault said.

The premier said this is a “critical” step to prepare for a possible second wave of COVID-19.

The Montreal suburb of Cote St-Luc has become the first city in Canada make masks mandatory. Although Legault has stressed everyone in the province should consider wearing a mask when leaving their home, he does not intend to make this a mandatory measure across the province.

2:45 p.m.: ‘It’s totally irresponsible’

Ontario Premier Doug Ford commented on MPP Randy Hillier and others protesting on the front lawn of Queen’s Park against the public health restrictions in place and the state of emergency.

“It’s totally irresponsible,” Ford said. “I’m disappointed in Randy and he should know better.”

The premier went on to say it’s important for the province to “reopen safely.” 

Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott responded to questions about a CBC News story reporting 700 positive COVID-19 tests in Toronto were not flagged to public health officials.

Elliott said it was “due to a misunderstanding between the hospital and the lab that conducted the tests.”

“That has been rectified to make sure that it won’t happen again,” she added. “Notices have been sent out to the hospitals or the assessment centres, wherever it is the tests are being conducted, indicating that it is their responsibility to notify public health.”

More Ontario manufacturers to make PPE

The Ontario government also announced more businesses will receive financial support through the Ontario Together Fund to re-tool their processes to make personal protective equipment (PPE).

The three new companies receiving financial support includes Southmedic in Barrie to make oxygen masks, ETCO2 masks and eye and face shield.

Sterling Industries in Concord will be able to increase its output of face shields from 200,000 per week to more than a million per week. SRB Technologies in Pembroke will convert a portion of its production from emergency lighting solutions for the nuclear, aerospace, construction and defence sectors to manufacturing medical-grade face shields.

1:45 p.m.: Canadian companies looking for ‘breakthrough solutions’ for rapid testing

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government is now funding four Canadian companies working on “breakthrough solutions” for COVID-19 rapid testing.

Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, explained the four companies will receive funding from the National Research Council of Canada. These businesses are Deep Biologics in Guelph, Nicoya Lifesciences in Kitchener and Metabolic Insights in Kelowna.

“These tests, if approved, would diagnose individual effected by COVID-19 within 3 days of the start of their symptoms using an easy to collection patient sample,” Bains said. “These companies have found a way to detect the presence of the COVID-19 virus in saliva.”

Trudeau also highlighted the government has signed a contract for millions of syringes to have the supplies needed when a vaccine is ready to be administered.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said Canada “needs to plan” for when there is eventually a viable vaccine for the public.

“We are making sure that when a viable vaccine is discovered, Canada is ready for its administration,” Anita Anand, Minister of Public Services and Procurement said at a press conference on Tuesday.

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

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