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Ontario revises school, child care centre COVID-19 screening guidelines

THE CANADIAN PRESS AND NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Oct 2nd, 2020

Parents of students with the sniffles or a headache will no longer have to line up for hours to get their children tested at COVID-19 assessment centres under Ontario’s newly amended screening guidelines for schools and daycares.

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, the province’s associate chief medical officer of health, said students with either of those symptoms can return to school after 24 hours if they feel fine. She said those are only symptoms in about 17 per cent of COVID-19 cases among children, so the change seemed prudent.

“I have never discussed runny nose so much in life,” she said.

“There’s all sorts of other causes of a runny nose, there’s other viruses circulating in the community. The kid might have just been outside and got a runny nose.”


Previously, the government had asked children with either symptom to stay home until they received a negative test result or other medical diagnoses.

Ontario is also removing abdominal pain or conjunctivitis from its screening list.

Children with a fever or cough will still be required to stay home, consult with a doctor and receive an alternative diagnosis or a negative COVID-19 test.

Ontario’s change comes after British Columbia dropped 10 symptoms, including a runny nose, from their screening guidance last month.

NDP education critic Marit Stiles slammed the Ontario government for its changing guidelines, saying the shifts are giving parents “whiplash.”

“Parents who spent hours and hours in line this week with their little ones waiting for a test have a right to be frustrated at the horrible lack of clarity on when kids need a test, and when they should return to school or daycare,” she said.

Provincial officials reported 64 new cases of COVID-19in Ontario schools – at least 29 of those cases were among students. That brings the total number of cases reported to 447.

A total of 306 out of more than 4,800 hundred schools across the province have reported at least one case of coronavirus while three schools have been forced to close after an outbreak was declared.

2 dead in multi-vehicle crash in Mississauga

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Oct 2nd, 2020

Two people are dead following a two vehicle crash in Mississauga.

Peel Regional Police say a car and a small transport truck collided in the area of Bristol Road West and Segriff Drive around 7:46 p.m.

Two people who were in the car were pronounced dead at the scene but police did not provide any ages or genders. The driver of the truck was not injured.

Manuel Alfonso, who arrived on the scene following the crash, said it was clear to him that the impact would be fatal for anyone inside the car.

“The whole side of the passenger side was all pushed in, almost to the drivers side,” he said.

Investigators did not provide any information as to what may have led up to the fatal crash.

Trump announces he and Melania have tested positive for COVID-19


WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said early Friday that he and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for the coronavirus, a stunning announcement that plunges the country deeper into uncertainty just a month before the presidential election.

Trump, who has spent much of the year downplaying the threat of a virus that has killed more than 205,000 Americans, said he and Mrs. Trump were quarantining. The White House physician said the president is expected to continue carrying out his duties “without disruption” while recovering.

Still, Trump’s diagnosis was sure to have a destabilizing effect in Washington, raising questions about how far the virus had spread through the highest levels of the U.S. government. Hours before Trump announced he had contracted the virus, the White House said a top aide who had travelled with him during the week had tested positive.

“Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately,” Trump tweeted just before 1 a.m. “We will get through this TOGETHER!”

Trump was last seen by reporters returning to the White House on Thursday evening and did not appear visibly ill. Trump is 74 years old, putting him at higher risk of serious complications from a virus that has infected more than 7 million people nationwide.

The president’s physician said in a memo that Trump and the first lady, who is 50, “are both well at this time” and “plan to remain at home within the White House during their convalescence.”

The diagnosis marks a devastating blow for a president who has been trying desperately to convince the American public that the worst of the pandemic is behind them. In the best of cases, if he develops no symptoms, which can include fever, cough and breathing trouble, it will force him off the campaign trail just weeks before the election.

Trump’s handling of the pandemic has already been a major flashpoint in his race against Democrat Joe Biden, who spent much of the summer off the campaign trail and at his home in Delaware because of the virus. Biden has since resumed a more active campaign schedule, but with small, socially distanced crowds. He also regularly wears a mask in public, something Trump mocked him for at Tuesday night’s debate.

“I don’t wear masks like him,” Trump said of Biden. “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from me, and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”

There was no immediate comment from the Biden campaign on whether the former vice-president had been tested since appearing at the debate with Trump or whether he was taking any additional safety protocols.

Trump had been scheduled to attend a fundraiser and hold another campaign rally in Sanford, Florida, on Friday evening. But just after 1 a.m., the White House released a revised schedule with only one event: a phone call on “COVID-19 support to vulnerable seniors.”

Trump’s announcement came hours after he confirmed that Hope Hicks, one of his most trusted and longest-serving aides, had been diagnosed with the virus Thursday. Hicks began feeling mild symptoms during the plane ride home from a rally in Minnesota on Wednesday evening, according to an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose private information. She was isolated from other passengers aboard the plane, the person said.

Hicks had been with Trump and other senior staff aboard Marine One and Air Force One en route to that rally and had accompanied the president to Tuesday’s presidential debate in Cleveland, along with members of the Trump family. They did not wear masks during the debate, in violation of the venue rules.

Multiple White House staffers have previously tested positive for the virus, including Vice-President Mike Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, national security adviser Robert O’Brien and one of the president’s personal valets.

But Trump has consistently played down concerns about being personally vulnerable, even after White House staff and allies were exposed and sickened. Since the coronavirus emerged earlier this year, Trump has refused to abide by basic public health guidelines — including those issued by his own administration _ such as wearing masks in public and practicing social distancing. Instead, he has continued to hold campaign rallies that draw thousands of supporters.

“I felt no vulnerability whatsoever,” he said told reporters back in May.

The news was sure to rattle an already shaken nation still grappling with how to safely reopen the economy without driving virus transmission. The White House has access to near-unlimited resources, including a constant supply of quick-result tests, and still failed to keep the president safe, raising questions about how the rest of the country will be able to protect its workers, students and the public as businesses and schools reopen.

Questions remain about why it took so long for Trump to be tested and why he and his aides continued to come to work and travel after Hicks fell ill. Trump travelled to New Jersey on Thursday for a fundraiser, exposing attendees to the virus.

Pence’s aides had no immediate comment on whether the vice-president had been tested or in contact with Trump.

It is unclear where the Trumps and Hicks may have caught the virus, but in his Fox interview, Trump seemed to suggest it may have been spread by someone in the military or law enforcement.

“It’s very, very hard when you are with people from the military or from law enforcement, and they come over to you, and they want to hug you, and they want to kiss you,” he said, “because we really have done a good job for them. And you get close. And things happen.”

The White House began instituting a daily testing regimen for the president’s senior aides after earlier positive cases close to the president. Anyone in close proximity to the president or vice-president is also tested every day, including reporters.

Yet since the early days of the pandemic, experts have questioned the health and safety protocols at the White House and asked why more wasn’t being done to protect the commander in chief. Trump continued to shake hands with visitors long after public health officials were warning against it, and he initially resisted being tested.

Trump is far from the first world leader to test positive for the virus, which previously infected Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who spent a week in the hospital, including three nights in intensive care. Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was hospitalized last month while fighting what he called a “hellish” case of COVID-19.

While there is currently no evidence that Trump is seriously ill, the positive test raises questions about what would happen if he were to become incapacitated due to illness.

The Constitution’s 25th Amendment spells out the procedures under which the president can declare himself “unable to discharge the powers and duties” of the presidency. If he were to make that call, Trump would transmit a written note to the Senate president pro tempore, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Pence would serve as acting president until Trump transmitted “a written declaration to the contrary.”

The vice-president and a majority of either the Cabinet or another body established by law can also declare the president unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, in which case Pence would “immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President” until Trump could provide a written declaration to the contrary.


Group of Toronto homeless men and women go to court over park eviction order

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Oct 1st, 2020

A Toronto court is set to hear arguments today from a group of homeless men and women living in tents who are pushing back against attempts by the city to remove them from parks.

The group, which includes activist organizations, wants an interim order to allow homeless people to continue living in the encampments until a constitutional challenge of a city bylaw is heard.

The central issue is a bylaw that bans living or camping in parks after midnight.

The city says the Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not entitle the group to live in parks.

It says it has worked very hard to make shelters safer during the pandemic and has found temporary or permanent homes for hundreds living in encampments.

Since the pandemic began, hundreds of people have fled shelters out of fear of contracting COVID-19 and have been living outside.

Half of elementary students at Peel public board opted for online learning

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Oct 1st, 2020

Nearly half of students at public elementary schools in a COVID-19 hot spot west of Toronto are learning online, according to data provided by the school board.

Upwards of 54,600 elementary students have opted for remote learning this year at the Peel District School Board and 57,300 have returned to the classroom.

That compares to roughly 35 per cent of elementary students who are learning online at the Toronto District School Board — the province’s largest.

Meanwhile, the Peel board’s high schools are running on an adapted model, with students who chose in-class learning only attending school half the time to minimize contact with their peers.

Still, the board says 27 per cent of high schoolers — around 11,200 — are learning fully online.

Peel Public Health says it’s seen 9,707 cases of COVID-19 throughout the pandemic, 8,396 of whom have recovered, and 329 deaths.

In-school vaccine programs moved to clinics, doctors’ offices in parts of Ontario

PAOLA LORIGGIO, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Oct 1st, 2020

Vaccines normally offered in school to Grade 7 students will instead be delivered at community clinics and doctors’ offices in parts of Ontario, meaning parents will have to make arrangements to ensure their children are immunized.

The Ministry of Health says local public health units, which are responsible for immunization programs including those in schools, are working to let residents know where they can access the vaccines.

Students in Grade 7 are typically given vaccines for Hepatitis B, Human Papilloma Virus and Meningococcal disease in school. Some of those shots require more than one dose.

Those programs have been disrupted due to COVID-19, which has seen thousands of students choose virtual lessons over in-person classes.

In Ottawa and Toronto — two regions experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases — public health officials say clinics will prioritize administering the flu vaccine this fall.

But they say vaccination clinics for students will be held in the community at a later date to replace the in-school programs.

“Given the exceptional circumstances, (Ottawa Public Health) has also invited family physicians to order school-aged vaccinations to their private practice to immunize their individual patients, which is not a typical accommodation,” the health unit said.

A series of so-called catch-up clinics were also held throughout the summer to help families stay on top of vaccinations, but those were paused once schools reopened, it said.

The school-based program typically reaches about 10,000 students in Ottawa each year, the unit said.

In Toronto, the HPV, Hepatitis B and Meningococcal disease vaccines will be available by appointment at clinics in the new year, though parents can also ask their health-care provider to administer it, public health officials said.

Reviews of students’ immunization records are also cancelled for the rest of the year, said Toronto’s associate medical officer of health, Dr. Vinita Dubey.

“Vaccines provide individuals with protection from non-COVID-19 diseases. Students visiting their health-care providers for scheduled or urgent visits should not delay vaccinations at this time,” Dubey said in an email.

Dr. Jennifer Blake, chief executive officer of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, said it’s important for parents to ensure their children get all the necessary doses of the HPV vaccine despite the disruption in the school programs.

Ontario already vaccinates students later than other provinces, she said, noting the HPV vaccine may require a third dose if administered at a later age. The vaccine is the most important preventive measure against cervical cancer, she said.

“What we know from the worldwide experience is that the most effective programs for vaccination are the school-based programs. So anything that interferes with a school-based vaccination program can throw us off,” Blake said.

“It is something to consider as to whether or not in future years, it’s worth moving this program back to an earlier grade level so that you do have a little bit of a buffer in case something like this continues or happens again.”

Toronto city council approves further restrictions on bars, restaurants

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Oct 1st, 2020

Toronto city council unanimously voted Wednesday to implement further restrictions to try and curb the spread of COVID-19.

Councillors voted in favour of a plan, put forth earlier this week by Toronto’s medical officer of health, that will mainly affect restaurants and bars in the city.

Bars and restaurants will now be required to log contact information for every customer, not just one person in each party and the number of people allowed at a table will be limited to six.

As well, the number of people allowed inside a restaurant or bar at any one time will now be limited to 75, down from 100.

Establishments where music or any other background sounds are played are being ordered to keep the level no louder than “normal conversation” in order to prevent the spreading of droplets.

City council is also urging the province to mandate face coverings in workplaces where physical distancing is not possible.

The new temporary bylaw amendments will take effect on October 8.

These additional measures are on top of provincial restrictions placed on bars and restaurants last week, requiring them to stop serving alcohol by 11 p.m. and close at midnight, except for takeout and delivery, while ordering strip clubs to close immediately.

Mayor John Tory called it a tough decision but says it’s one that has to be balanced to keep people healthy and maintain economic stability.

“We’re doing what we believe is right. We are recommending what we believe is right. All of these things fit into that category,” said Tory.

“We’re certainly only doing it after a very careful assessment done daily about the consequences these types of things have, because they do have consequences.”

In response to concerns that these added restrictions will further negatively impact an already struggling food service industry, Tory has suggested further supports, such as providing winter patios and requesting additional financial support from the federal government.

The city is also going to ask the province to extend orders that permit the sale of alcohol as part of takeout and delivery orders into next year and that all commercial evictions be paused until the “COVID-19 resurgence eases.”

City council also voted to extend the current temporary bylaws covering physical distancing in public spaces and mandatory mask or face coverings until the first meeting of 2021.

Councillor’s also approved a motion put forth by Board of Health chair Joe Cressy that directs the medical officer of health to consider any additional measures with gyms and fitness studios as possibly the next targets if transmission rates continue to climb.

City health officials reported 321 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday with the total number of cases falling just short of 20,000.

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