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Most abiding by COVID-19 rules, back fines, arrests of those who aren’t: Poll

JOAN BRYDEN, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Mar 31st, 2020

OTTAWA — Most Canadians are doing what they’re told to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and would support harsher measures to punish those who aren’t, a new poll suggests.

Of the 1,590 adults surveyed between March 27 and 29, the vast majority said they were practising social distancing (97 per cent), keeping at least two metres apart from others (95 per cent), washing their hands more frequently than usual (95 per cent), going out only for necessities (94 per cent) and coughing or sneezing into their elbows (92 per cent).

As well, 86 per cent said they’ve asked family and friends to practice social distancing. However, 15 per cent said they’ve visited friends or family.

Fully 64 per cent said they’ve personally witnessed people not respecting the measures implemented to curb the spread of the deadly virus.

A whopping 92 per cent they’d agree if governments authorized police to fine such people as some jurisdictions have begun doing; 82 per cent would agree to police arresting those who disrespect the measures.

And 77 per cent said they’d agree to a complete quarantine of an entire city if necessary, allowing no one to enter or leave except for essential services.

For now, however, the poll, conducted jointly by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies, suggests Canadians are broadly satisfied with the measures their governments have been taking to deal with the crisis.

Seventy per cent of respondents said they were very or somewhat satisfied with the federal government’s response, up five points from last week. Seventy-nine per cent were satisfied with their provincial government’s response, fuelled by a 92 per cent satisfaction rate in Quebec, while 67 per cent were satisfied with their municipal government’s response.

“Our sort of natural capacity as Canadians to trust government is probably what will help us get through this in better shape relative to our southern neighbours,” said Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque.

The level of satisfaction among Canadians was in stark contrast to the 1,004 Americans who were simultaneously surveyed: just 47 per cent said they were satisfied with the U.S. federal government’s response, presided over by President Donald Trump.

The poll found the proportion of Canadian respondents who weren’t taking the crisis seriously went down three percentage points over the past week — to 17 per cent who said it’s totally or partly overblown.

At the same time, the level of fear rose five points, with 62 per cent saying they were very or somewhat afraid of contracting the disease themselves and 73 per cent afraid for a member of their immediate family.

Eight per cent said they know someone who has contracted the disease — up four points from last week.

Fully 92 per cent said COVID-19 represents a major threat to Canada’s economy, 77 per cent said it’s a major threat to the health of the country’s population, 73 per cent to daily life in their community, 54 per cent to their personal financial situation and 45 per cent to their personal health.

Fifty-four per cent said the crisis had already harmed their retirement savings or other investments, 45 per cent said they’ve seen their income decrease, 41 per cent said their ability to financially assist family members has declined, 27 per cent said it’s hurt their ability to pay their bills and 22 per cent said it’s hurt their ability to pay their mortgages or rent.

Even so, 65 per cent said they think the worst is yet to come.

Respondents were randomly recruited from Leger’s online panel. The poll cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet surveys are not considered random samples.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2020.

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

Ontario reports 10 new deaths from COVID-19, up to 33

THE CANADIAN PRESS AND NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Mar 31st, 2020

Health officials say 10 more people have died from COVID-19 in Ontario. The province’s total number of deaths is 33.

The province’s daily update on Monday morning listed the number of deaths at 23, but the associate chief medical officer of health says that since then, public health units have reported 10 more, for a
total of 33.

Dr. Barbara Yaffe says the information is incomplete at the moment, but the regions that have seen more deaths include Haliburton, Lambton, Haldimand Norfolk and Huron Perth.

Yaffe wasn’t able to say if the Haliburton death is related to an outbreak at Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon.

Seven residents have died there and 24 staff members are infected.

Ontario reported on Monday 351 new novel coronavirus cases, the largest single-day increase by far.

Health officials say the jump is at least partly due to clearing a large backlog of pending test results.

The new total of cases in the province is 1,706 — including 431 resolved cases and the 33 deaths.

The number of resolved cases had been stuck at eight for many days.

But health officials had said to expect a large jump once the data caught up to a new definition for resolved.

The increase in the number of resolved cases also means there are actually fewer active COVID-19 cases in Ontario — 1,252 — than the 1,324 that Sunday’s data had indicated.

A new reporting format from the province also shows that more than 61 per cent of all cases are in the Greater Toronto Area.

Information on how people became infected is still pending for nearly half of all cases in Ontario. About 16 per cent are attributed to community spread, 26 per cent to recent travel, and nearly 10 per cent to close contact with another confirmed case.

About 10 per cent of people in the province who have tested positive for COVID-19 have been hospitalized.

The median age of people infected is 50, with cases ranging in age from under one year old to 100 years old.

Ontario closes all outdoor recreational facilities due to coronavirus

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Mar 31st, 2020

The Ontario government ordered closed all outdoor recreational facilities including sports fields and playgrounds in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The government made the announcement Monday night as video and photos surfaced of people congregating in parks despite warnings from the government officials and Toronto Mayor John Tory that people are putting themselves and others at risk.

The closure order comes as the province extended the emergency declaration until April 13.

“I made a commitment to be open and upfront about what we need to do as a province to beat this virus,” said Premier Doug Ford in a news release Monday. “Based on the best medical advice available, we are taking further steps today to protect the health and safety of all Ontarians by closing outdoor recreational amenities, like sports fields and playgrounds, and extending our emergency orders to save lives.”

The government said the closure order covers the following facilities, both public and private:

  • playgrounds and sports fields,
  • basketball and tennis courts,
  • off-leash dog parks,
  • beaches and picnic areas
  • skateboard and BMX parks
  • outdoor community gardens
  • park shelters
  • outdoor exercise equipment
  • condo parks and gardens
  • other outdoor recreational amenities


“Green spaces in parks, trails, ravines and conservation areas that aren’t otherwise closed would remain open for walkthrough access, but individuals must maintain the safe physical distance of at least two metres apart from others,” a government news release said. “Ontario’s provincial parks and conservation reserves remain closed.”


Toronto, Peel public school students will be back in the virtual classroom April 6

SPENCER GALLICHAN-LOWE | posted Tuesday, Mar 31st, 2020

Two Greater Toronto Area school boards said they plan to start teacher-led online education next week following the closure of Ontario schools because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and Peel District School Board (PDSB) said Monday they are prepping their staff and getting equipment ready for online learning starting on April 6.

John Malloy, TDSB director of education said the board is contacting families to determine what their children will need to learn online. He said they want to make sure students have a computer or similar device, as well as have internet access.

Malloy said the board is still waiting on parametres from the Ministry of Education in terms of what a school ‘day’ will look like, as well as how assessments will be handled.

He added that students will learn from their own teacher and interaction will be optional to each instructor.

Peter Joshua, the PDSB’s director of education, said they are developing plans for online learning for all grades, including adult and continuing education.

“We are currently finalizing a plan, and I look forward to sharing it with staff, students and families by the end of this week,” he said in a news release. “Thank you for your ongoing patience as we work to create a comprehensive and equitable plan to ensure all learners’ needs are met.”

He said the plan will include supports for students with special education needs as well as English language learners.

Other key components include a plan to ensure equitable access to electronics and the internet, as well as mental health and community supports.

“We are working to ensure that our use of online learning environments will not widen the divide between privileged and underserved students and that alternate learning strategies will be available,” he said. “In addition, we’re working to ensure equity of access to technology.”

With files from 680 News’ Patrick Luciani and Asher Roth

Ontario to unveil added home learning for students as schools remain closed

CYNTHIA MULLIGAN | posted Monday, Mar 30th, 2020

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce will announce new measures this week to keep students learning while classes remain suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He will also announce another extension of school closures beyond the previously set return date of April 6, which only a few days ago Premier Doug Ford confirmed was “unrealistic” and not going to happen.

Whether school will be back at all before the end of June is still in question.

As the government prepares for a lengthy suspension of school there are many complex issues it is trying to resolve; should home learning be mandatory and count for marks?   What about students with special needs?  How can home learning be equitable for the estimated 100,000 students across the province who don’t have access to the internet at home?  The government is currently discussing these concerns with school boards, Ontario’s four teachers unions, and parent groups as well as the Minister’s Advisory Council on Special Education.

In a statement, Lecce said, “in partnership with school boards and educators, our aim is to ensure every child – irrespective of ability, geography or socio-economic circumstance – can learn safely while at home.”

He added he has been speaking with parents who have children with special education needs about the “heightened challenges” they face during the pandemic.

The government’s launched its “Learn at Home” website on March 20.

It is not mandatory and does not count for marks.

Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) president Harvey Bischof said he has been working with the government to try to find ways to enhance and extend the home learning tool.

“One of the things we’ve been emphasizing and we believe heard by the minister is there is a vast spectrum of ability and access during this time,” he said, adding that it complicates trying to put something together on the fly.

Bischof said it is critical to plan for when students finally go back to school so that they can catch up.

He warns that “despite our best efforts gaps are going to rise based on students’ access.”

Many university professors have set up online classes for their students. When asked if that was a possibility, Bischof said it is possible but what will be required are “multiple options” for learning so as many students as possible have access.

Yesterday Alberta announced it is redirecting approximately $128 million from school funding to its COVID-19 response while schools are closed, which is expected to lead to the layoffs of thousands of substitute teachers and education assistants.

A spokesperson for the education minister said Sunday there are no plans to do that in Ontario and a memo has been sent to school boards advising them to honour collective agreements.

6 Toronto firefighters test positive for coronavirus

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Mar 30th, 2020

Toronto’s firefighter association said on Saturday six firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past two weeks.

Toronto Fire Services was not able to say how many firefighters are in isolation as a result of the positive tests.

Frank Ramagnano, president of the Toronto Professional Fire Fighters’ Association, said physical distancing has been hard on the job, so the firefighters have been relying on personal protective equipment to guard against the virus.

“But we have to be very careful about how we use that PPE, it’s in short supply,” he said, noting that members of the public should keep their distance from firefighters during non-emergency calls.

“If you maintain your distance, firefighters don’t have to wear PPE for every call.”

In addition to the six firefighters who were sickened, Ramagnano said more than 200 were off the job and in self-isolation.

A spokesman for the fire service says the outbreak has not affected operations.

Oakville firefighter tests positive for coronavirus

An Oakville firefighter has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus as well, the Oakville Professional Firefighters Association reported Sunday.

“Sad to report one of our firefighters has tested positive for COVID-19,” a tweet said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. We are working diligently to ensure the safety of our members as we continue to protect the public.”

Oakville fire chief Brian Durdin confirmed on Sunday that a firefighter is in self-isolation at the direction of the local health unit.

“Since the firefighter last worked a shift in Oakville on March 19, and did not display symptoms until March 23, they are primarily reaching out to direct contacts that took place after March 21, 2020,” Durdin said.

Durdin added that the fire hall and truck have been deep-cleaned.

“Internally we have had the fire hall and truck where the staff member last worked prior to the onset of symptoms deep cleaned as an extra precaution,” he said. “The affected staff member’s crew will continue to self-monitor as per protocols recommend by the Halton Health Unit.”

The fire department has also implemented a mandatory self-screening protocol.  Durdin said firefighters must screen themselves prior to going to work and halfway through their shift.

Ontario confirms 211 new coronavirus cases including 2 new deaths

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Mar 30th, 2020

Ontario has recorded 211 new confirmed cases of coronavirus, raising the total number of cases in the province to 1,355.

It marks the first time that the number of new cases has surpassed 200 since reporting began.

There have also been two additional deaths, raising the toll to 21.

The government reported late Sunday the two deaths were in the Simcoe-Muskoka District Public Health Unit and the Renfrew County and District Public Health Unit areas.

The province continues to see a decrease in the number of cases currently under investigation. Currently, there are 7,203 people awaiting test results, down almost 3,000 from Friday’s total.

The province has completed just over 49,000 tests, an increase of almost 8,000 additional tests since Friday. The number of resolved cases remains at eight.

Canada’s chief public health officer Theresa Tam says 205,000 tests for COVID-19 have been conducted in the country, and about three per cent of them have been positive.

She also says the number of people with the disease requiring hospitalization remains around six per cent, with two per cent in critical care and one per cent of cases fatal.

Tam also corrected a statement she made Saturday, saying that 12 per cent of people hospitalized are aged 40 and under. She had previously stated that number was 30 per cent

Tam says even with the lower number, “this statistic shows that younger age groups are also experiencing illness severe enough to require hospitalization.”

Crucial details of Ottawa’s proposed wage subsidy program expected Monday

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Mar 30th, 2020

Businesses and employees across Canada reeling from the COVID-19 crisis are expected to hear more about Ottawa’s proposed wage subsidy program on Monday.

When the federal government announced on Friday that it was boosting the subsidy to 75 per cent from the original 10 per cent, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he hoped the details would be hammered out by Monday.

The unprecedented measures being taken to try to slow the spread of the new coronavirus have severely impacted the national economy resulting in staggering job losses.

The government has responded, so far, by rolling out a bailout package totalling more than $200 billion. However, in a letter to the prime minister on Sunday NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh urged further action to ensure that people who have lost their jobs don’t also lose their homes when rent and mortgage payments come due on Apr. 1.

Another 665 COVID-19 cases were reported in Canada Sunday, pushing the national total to 6,320, including 66 deaths and 485 cases resolved.

And while government officials in Quebec and B.C. have said there are indications social distancing efforts may be paying off in slowing the rampant march of the virus, Canada’s chief public health officer says it’s still too early to make that call. On Sunday Dr. Theresa Tam said this week will be “very, very important” for her in terms of looking at those trends. But in the meantime, she again urged Canadians to continue to physically distance themselves from others.

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