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Worldwide death toll from coronavirus eclipses 1 million

ADAM GELLER AND RISHABH R. JAIN, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Tuesday, Sep 29th, 2020

NEW DELHI — The worldwide death toll from the coronavirus eclipsed 1 million on Monday, nine months into a crisis that has devastated the global economy, tested world leaders’ resolve, pitted science against politics and forced multitudes to change the way they live, learn and work.

“It’s not just a number. It’s human beings. It’s people we love,” said Dr. Howard Markel, a professor of medical history at the University of Michigan who has advised government officials on containing pandemics and lost his 84-year-old mother to COVID-19 in February.

“It’s our brothers, our sisters. It’s people we know,” he added. “And if you don’t have that human factor right in your face, it’s very easy to make it abstract.”

The bleak milestone, recorded by Johns Hopkins University, is greater than the population of Jerusalem or Austin, Texas. It is 2 1/2 times the sea of humanity that was at Woodstock in 1969. It is more than four times the number killed in the 2004 earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean.

Even then, the figure is almost certainly a vast undercount because of inadequate or inconsistent testing and reporting and suspected concealment by some countries.

And the number continues to mount. Nearly 5,000 deaths are reported each day on average. Parts of Europe are getting hit by a second wave, and experts fear the same fate may await the U.S., which accounts for about 205,000 deaths, or 1 out of 5 worldwide. That is far more than any other country, despite America’s wealth and medical resources.

“I can understand why … numbers are losing their power to shock, but I still think it’s really important that we understand how big these numbers really are,” said Mark Honigsbaum, author of “The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria and Hubris.”

The global toll includes people like Joginder Chaudhary, who was his parents’ greatest pride, raised with the little they earned farming a half-acre plot in central India to become the first doctor from their village.

After the virus killed the 27-year-old Chaudhary in late July, his mother wept inconsolably. With her son gone, Premlata Chaudhary said, how could she go on living? Three weeks later, on Aug. 18, the virus took her life, too. All told, it has killed more than 95,000 in India.

“This pandemic has ruined my family,” said the young doctor’s father, Rajendra Chaudhary. “All our aspirations, our dreams, everything is finished.”

When the virus overwhelmed cemeteries in the Italian province of Bergamo last spring, the Rev. Mario Carminati opened his church to the dead, lining up 80 coffins in the centre aisle. After an army convoy carted them to a crematory, another 80 arrived. Then 80 more.

Eventually the crisis receded and the world’s attention moved on. But the pandemic’s grasp endures. In August, Carminati buried his 34-year-old nephew.

“This thing should make us all reflect. The problem is that we think we’re all immortal,” the priest said.

The virus first appeared in late 2019 in patients hospitalized in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the first death was reported on Jan. 11. By the time authorities locked down the city nearly two weeks later, millions of travellers had come and gone. China’s government has come in for criticism that it did not do enough to alert other countries to the threat.

Government leaders in countries like Germany, South Korea and New Zealand worked effectively to contain it. Others, like U.S. President Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, dismissed the severity of the threat and the guidance of scientists, even as hospitals filled with gravely ill patients.

Brazil has recorded the second most deaths after the U.S., with about 142,000. India is third and Mexico fourth, with more than 76,000.

The virus has forced trade-offs between safety and economic well-being. The choices made have left millions of people vulnerable, especially the poor, minorities and the elderly.

With so many of the deaths beyond view in hospital wards and clustered on society’s margins, the milestone recalls the grim pronouncement often attributed to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin: One death is a tragedy, millions of deaths are a statistic.

The pandemic’s toll of 1 million dead in such a limited time rivals some of the gravest threats to public health, past and present.

It exceeds annual deaths from AIDS, which last year killed about 690,000 people worldwide. The virus’s toll is approaching the 1.5 million global deaths each year from tuberculosis, which regularly kills more people than any other infectious disease.

But “COVID’s grip on humanity is incomparably greater than the grip of other causes of death,” said Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University. He noted the unemployment, poverty and despair caused by the pandemic and deaths from myriad other illnesses that have gone untreated.

For all its lethality, the virus has claimed far fewer lives than the so-called Spanish flu, which killed an estimated 40 million to 50 million worldwide in two years, just over a century ago.

That pandemic came before scientists had microscopes powerful enough to identify the enemy or antibiotics that could treat the bacterial pneumonia that killed most of the victims. It also ran a far different course. In the U.S., for example, the Spanish flu killed about 675,000. But most of those deaths did not come until a second wave hit over the winter of 1918-19.

Up to now, the disease has left only a faint footprint on Africa, well shy of early modelling that predicted thousands of more deaths.

But cases have recently surged in countries like Britain, Spain, Russia and Israel. In the United States, the return of students to college campuses has sparked new outbreaks. With approval and distribution of a vaccine still probably months away and winter approaching in the Northern Hemisphere, the toll will continue to climb.

“We’re only at the beginning of this. We’re going to see many more weeks ahead of this pandemic than we’ve had behind us,” Gostin said.

___

Geller reported from New York. Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to this story.

CERB program ends as COVID-19 cases continue to rise

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Sep 28th, 2020

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) established to support Canadians financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic ended on Sunday.

The federal income assistance program provided more than 8.5 million individuals with $2,000 a month starting April 6.

In its place is employment insurance (EI), which the government says the majority of people will go on.

Anyone who applied for and received the CERB through Service Canada and is eligible for EI is supposed to be automatically transitioned over to employment insurance. Anyone who applied and received the CERB through the CRA would need to apply anew for EI, if they qualify.

The government says the first payment will come the week of Oct. 11. About 80 per cent are expected to receive payments by Oct. 14; a further 10 per cent within the first two weeks.

The $500-a-week floor on benefits in EI, or $300 per week floor for new parents using the extended-leave option, will be taxable. Jobless benefits through this EI program will be available for at least 26 weeks, and claimants will be allowed to earn more than they did under the CERB — up to $38,000 annually, before being completely cut off.

The threshold to qualify for EI has been reduced to 120 hours of insurable work for those coming back into the system that has been nearly dormant since March.

The government says 2.8 million people will qualify for EI as of Monday.

Three new benefits have also been added:

  • The Canada Recovery Benefit: $500 per week for up to 26 weeks to self-employed workers or those not eligible for EI but still need income support.
  • Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit: $500 per week for up to two weeks, for those who cannot work because they are sick or must self-isolate for reasons related to COVID-19.
  • Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit: $500 per week for up to 26 weeks per household to eligible workers who cannot work because they must care for children or family members due to the closure of schools, day cares or care facilities.

Click here for more info on federal financial assistance.

Meanwhile cases continue to soar in Ontario, adding to fears of another potential lockdown.

On Friday, Premier Ford ordered bars and restaurants to close by midnight and ordered all strip clubs to close.

Ontario reported 491 new cases on Sunday — the highest number of cases since May.

With files from Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Man injured in drive-by shooting near Jane Street and Shoreham Drive

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Sep 28th, 2020

A man was injured in a drive-by shooting in North York Sunday evening, police said.

Toronto police said they were called to the Jane Street and Shoreham Drive at around 8:41 p.m.

Police said the victim was shot in the upper back area was transported to the hospital.

Investigators said they are searching for two suspects.

The first suspect is described as a male and was wearing a brown hoodie, black shoes, a black hat and a red bandana.

The second suspect is also a male and was wearing grey sweat pants.

They were seen in a brown-coloured, four-door Ford sedan, police said.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the police directly. Tips can also be left anonymously with Crime Stoppers.

1 person dead, another person critically injured in North Etobicoke shooting

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Sep 28th, 2020

A person is dead and another person has been critically injured following a shooting in North Etobicoke Sunday evening, police said.

Police said they were called to the Kipling Avenue and Mt. Olive Drive area at around 7:30 p.m. for a report that two people had been shot in a building.

One victim was pronounced dead at the scene and another person was transported to the hospital with life-threatening injures, police said.

No other information has been released by the police.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the police directly. Tips can also be left anonymously with Crime Stoppers.

Mason Road school closed due to COVID-19 outbreak: TDSB

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Sep 28th, 2020

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) says Toronto Public Health (TPH) has declared an outbreak of COVID-19 at Mason Road Junior Public School in Scarborough.

The school, located at 78 Mason Road near Kingston Road and Eglinton Avenue East, has been ordered closed for all of next week while TPH continues their investigation, the board said in a tweet Sunday evening.

According to the school board’s COVID-19 advisories page, one student and three staff members have confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The board said the school community has already been informed.

“An outbreak is declared when there are at least two confirmed cases of COVID-19 within a 14 day period and with a link to a school setting,” said a letter to parents. “TPH will let us know if the school can reopen after this period.”

The TDSB said they are requiring all students and staff from the school to self-isolate until Oct. 2.

“I know news of an outbreak and school closure will, understandably, be worrisome for families. Please know that we are in constant contact with TPH and should they believe any additional communications or steps are required, we will let you know as soon as possible,” said school principal Helen Wong in the letter. “In the meantime, additional cleaning will be conducted in the school over the next week.”

 

 

Cyclist dies after being struck by vehicle near Kensington Market

LUCAS CASALETTO | posted Friday, Sep 25th, 2020

Toronto police say a male cyclist has died after he was hit by a car just north of Kensington Market.

Officers were called to the Dundas Street West and Denison Avenue area around 6 p.m. Thursday night for reports that a man had been struck.

The victim’s injuries were serious and police say CPR was performed.

The man was later pronounced dead in hospital.

Constable David Hopkinson says the driver remained at the scene.

Road closures will be in place as the investigation continues.

One man dead, several others injured following multiple shootings in Toronto

LUCAS CASALETTO | posted Friday, Sep 25th, 2020

Toronto police say one man is dead and several others are hurt after a string of shootings in a violent night across the city.

Police say the first incident happened around 8:30 p.m. when multiple shots were heard near Gosford Boulevard and Shoreham Drive, just west of Jane Steet.

Police say two victims were located with gunshot wounds with one suffering life-threatening injuries.

One man was pronounced dead on scene.

The second victim, a man in his 20s, was taken to hospital in serious but non-life-threatening condition.

A silver car was seen fleeing the area.

Less than an hour later, police responded to another shooting in North York, near Futura Drive and Driftwood Avenue.

Officers say shots were fired towards a home, where a man was struck inside. He has since been rushed to hospital.

Multiple suspects fled the scene in a car.

This comes after a previous incident around 6:30 p.m. when several shots were fired near a plaza on Driftwood Avenue and Jane. No victims were located and it’s unclear if the pair of shootings are connected.

 

Scarborough shooting leaves one man in critical condition

A separate, unrelated shooting happened around 7:30 p.m. after police were called following reports of several shots fired near Lawrence Avenue and Galloway Road in Scarborough.

Officers located a male victim suffering from serious injuries. They also report a light coloured vehicle was seen fleeing from the area.

The man is in life-threatening condition and has been rushed to hospital.

Police are asking anyone with information on either incident to contact them.

Blue Jays beat Yankees 4-1 to secure playoff spot

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Sep 25th, 2020

The Toronto Blue Jays are returning to the Major League Baseball playoffs for the first time since 2016.

The Blue Jays secured a post-season berth by defeating the New York Yankees 4-1 at Buffalo’s Sahlen Field.

Regular-season play continues through Sunday and the playoffs will begin Tuesday.

First-round matchups have yet to be determined.

More to come

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