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Torontonians face up to $5K fine for violating physical distancing by-law

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Apr 3rd, 2020

Torontonians face a fine of up to $5,000 if they do not adhere to new social distancing measures announced the City on Thursday.

Mayor John Tory says a new by-law will immediately go into effect ordering people to remain two metres apart when they are in public parks and squares.

Tory said the by-law does not apply to people who live together as long as they maintain their distance from others they come into contact with.

The by-law will be in effect for at least the next 30 days.

“The time for puzzlement at this misbehaviour is over,” said Tory. “Lives are potentially at stake and we will turn up the heat in the hopes that the few who still don’t get it or pretend not to get it will get with the program.”

“The public has been warned many times. Now it is into the realm of enforcement.”

Police chief Mark Saunders says up to 160 uniformed officers along with civilian members of the service and parking enforcement officers would be responsible for enforcement. The City says it will be bringing on board additional by-law officers to also help with enforcement.

While the set fine is $750, Mayor Tory said he hopes anyone found violating the by-law will be handed the full $5,000 fine.

“We will continue to do everything we can to lock the city down to save lives,” explained Tory, adding he doesn’t want a New York City-type scenario to happen here in Toronto.

Walking for exercise in the park and taking pets for a walk is permitted provided people abide by social distancing recommendations.

“We are not saying to people, ‘Don’t go to the park,’” said Tory. “We are asking for people to engage in common sense behaviour.”

Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, called reports of people taking down barricades at City parks and groups of kids playing in the street while parents socialize “appalling” and “selfish.”

She said while it’s hard to stay at home with the warm weather approaching, if we don’t stay indoors are much as possible, “more people will get sick and more will die.”

“People are getting sick. People are dying in our city. Yet others think it’s okay to hang out with their friends in groups of people. This behaviour is selfish and it contributes to virus spread in our community. And it is not acceptable.”

There are now 897 total cases of COVID-19 in the Toronto, an increase of 10 per cent from the previous day. Of those cases, 86 people are in hospital with 39 of those patients in the ICU.

Dr. de Villa revised the death toll to 11, down from 19. She said that Toronto Public Health are aware of other deaths but those are being further investigated to confirm they are COVID-19 related.

Ontario returns to table with last teachers’ union as backdrop for talks changes

SHAWN JEFFORDS and THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Apr 3rd, 2020

The Ontario government is attempting to close an ugly round of bargaining as it restarts talks with the only remaining teachers’ union without a contract, and an expert says the COVID-19 pandemic may create a path to labour peace.

University of Toronto professor and former deputy education minister Charles Pascal says the unprecedented crisis, and the dramatic response that has altered daily life, have also changed the tone coming from the government.

Pascal said Premier Doug Ford’s government has abandoned the inflammatory rhetoric and divisive public bargaining it had engaged in with the province’s teachers’ unions since last summer, focusing instead on calm, clear pandemic response.

That new approach appears to have had an effect on the once-turbulent talks that led to near-daily walkouts and strikes, closing schools just weeks ago.

“It takes the pressure off so that people can sit at the table, quietly, while attention is being paid elsewhere,” he said. “All of a sudden the government wants to appear genuine about being fair in every direction.”

In recent weeks, the province has secured tentative agreements with three of four teachers’ unions that had been without contracts since August.

On Thursday, the government returned to the bargaining table with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, which is the last union without a deal.

But with schools now shuttered until at least May because of the pandemic, and the government and teachers working together to help students learn from home, Pascal said the tension built up between all parties appears to have diminished.

“There’s a kind of fairness that’s arisen on the scene that’s led to deals with the other federations,” he said. “That’s a good thing.”

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said Thursday the government is ready to work with the OSSTF to reach an agreement.

“The time is now to drive deals with all remaining union partners,” Lecce said in a statement. “We will remain a positive and driving force at the bargaining table, advancing the priorities of parents and students.”

OSSTF president Harvey Bischof said the union, which has been engaged in only informal discussions with the government since December, is also ready to get back to the bargaining table.

He acknowledged that the pandemic has affected talks, even on a logistical level, with all future bargaining taking place via teleconference.

“Negotiations never happen in a vacuum, they happen in an environment,” Bischof said. “The environment has an effect on bargaining. What exactly that will be isn’t something I’m prepared to pre-judge.”

Bischof said he’s not concerned that the public support he felt the teachers had built over the past few months has disappeared.

“I’m not worried,” he said. “I’m cognizant of the reality within which we find ourselves. I have to tell you, it’s the reality in which my members are … doing their very best to provide continuity of learning for students, have reached out to students and are worried for them and their well-being.”

In recent weeks, the province has reached agreements with the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association and the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens.

Peel Region apologizes for sending negative COVID-19 test results to positive patients

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Apr 3rd, 2020

Public health officials in Peel Region have apologized after 16 people were told their COVID-19 test results were negative when in fact they had tested positive.

Lawrence C. Loh, the Interim Medical Officer of Health, said the letters were mailed on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Loh said several positive test slips were accidentally mixed in with a batch of negative results they had received back from labs.

Loh said the error was not caught until after the letters were mailed out.

“I know the relief those residents felt for a few moments has sadly been transformed into feelings of fear and uncertainty,” Loh said in a statement released Thursday night. “Our team is working quickly to notify these residents and make sure they have what they need to manage this difficult situation.”

Loh says the unit has made changes to their process to ensure this situation does not occur in the future.

Ontario to release coronavirus modelling, Ford says numbers will be hard to hear

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Apr 3rd, 2020

Ontario will release data Friday showing how many Ontarians could die from COVID-19 in various scenarios, Premier Doug Ford announced Thursday, warning that the projections will be hard to hear.

Ford had resisted calls to release that modelling as recently as Wednesday, saying there were many different scenarios, but said medical experts will now provide a public briefing.

“Over the next little while we will all have to make some very, very difficult decisions and you deserve the same information I have,” Ford said.

“You deserve to see the same data that I see when I’m making decisions. You deserve to know what I know when you’re making decisions for yourself, your family and your community.”

Ford said the numbers may be “a real wake-up call” to people who may be tempted to pack the beaches and the parks as the weather gets nicer.

“The truth is the situation is extremely, extremely serious,” Ford said. “Right now our best defence is to stay home, self isolate and don’t go out. It is a matter of life and death.”

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health needed time to compile figures that take into account the large influx of people, including snowbirds, returning to Canada and develop an accurate model, Ford said.

Nationally, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he isn’t able to share a national picture yet, but will be able to soon.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, said the modelling will give people an idea of what to prepare for, of worst-case scenarios and how to shift the forecasts.

“I think the numbers, as always, will be challenging as people see what might progress,” he said. “If people see what might be possible, could be possible and what we might achieve through our ongoing energy and efforts of public health measures, physical distancing, it means we need to stay at the task and do our part to flatten the curve and impact that and change the projection as best we can.”

Ontario reported 401 more COVID-19 cases Thursday, including 16 more deaths.

A Bobcaygeon nursing home also reported two more deaths of residents in a COVID-19 outbreak there, bringing the total to 16. The local health unit believes the outbreak at Pinecrest Nursing Home is the largest in the province, with at least 24 staff members also infected.

There are many other outbreaks in such facilities across the province _ at least 26 in long-term care homes and eight in retirement homes, said associate chief medical officer of health Dr. Barbara Yaffe, who acknowledged those figures are likely an under representation.

The outbreaks include one with eight deaths in Toronto, one in Aria with four deaths and one in Hagersville with three deaths.

Also on Thursday afternoon, a hospital in Oshawa, Ont., confirmed it has a COVID-19 outbreak in one of its in-patient units.

Lakeridge Health did not say how many patients tested positive for the virus or identify the unit affected.

“Consistent with established protocols for managing outbreaks in institutions, the unit is temporarily closed to admissions,” the hospital said in a statement. “The individuals who have tested positive have been appropriately isolated, are receiving care and being monitored by the (Durham Region Health Department).”

Provincewide, there are now 2,793 cases of COVID-19, including 53 deaths and 831 resolved.

Ontario reported that 405 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, including 167 in intensive care, and 112 of those patients are on ventilators.

Meanwhile, Ontario’s backlog of pending test results continues to drop as more testing capacity is added _ from 3,135 Wednesday to 2,052 Thursday.

The province also announced Thursday an investment of $12 million to expand online and virtual mental health supports.

“I know that staying home is no small ask,” said Health Minister Christine Elliott. “There are many for whom isolation brings unique challenges for their mental health _ anxiety, depression, a growing sense of loneliness or helplessness.”

Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey announced $2.7 million on Thursday for community agencies to support victims of domestic violence and other violent crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The province is also investing $1.3 million in technology to help courts and tribunals operate remotely.

Canadians on 2 stranded cruise ships will be heading home

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Apr 2nd, 2020

U.S. President Donald Trump says there are plans to remove nearly 250 Canadians from two cruise ships and get them back to Canada.

The U.S. Coast Guard has directed all cruise ships to remain at sea where they may be sequestered “indefinitely” during the coronavirus pandemic, but Trump said Canada is coming to get the Canadians from the MS Zaandam and its sister ship the Rotterdam.

“We’re taking the Canadians off and giving them to Canadian authorities. They’re going to bring them back home,” Trump said at his daily press briefing on Wednesday.

Trump said the same is true for citizens of the United Kingdom on the ships.

The president said states have been reluctant to take cruise guests, but he feels the U.S. is obligated to help. He said at a minimum, the U.S. will send medical teams on board.

“You have people that are sick on those ships and states don’t want to take them,” Trump said.

“They have enough problems right now and they don’t want to take them, but we have to from a humane standpoint. We don’t have a choice. I don’t want to do that, but we have to. People are dying.”

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, cruise ships must also be prepared to send any severely ill passengers to the countries where the vessels are registered.

The rules, which apply to any vessel carrying more than 50 people, were issued in a March 29 safety bulletin signed by Coast Guard Rear Admiral E.C. Jones, whose district includes Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Puerto Rico.

But Trump said Tuesday he was going to speak with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis about whether to allow the Zaandam and the Rotterdam, one of which has seen four people die and 200 passengers and crew report flu-like symptoms, to dock.

Global Affairs Canada said in a statement that there are 97 Canadian passengers on the Zaandam and 150 Canadians on the Rotterdam. At this time, no COVID-19 cases have been confirmed among Canadian passengers.

“We continue to engage with the passengers and Holland America to co-ordinate travel for Canadian citizens back to Canada upon disembarkation,” Global Affairs said.

The Zaandam, which set sail in early March on a South American cruise, is carrying sick passengers and crew, while passengers not showing symptoms were transferred to the Rotterdam, which was sent to the region to help. Both ships have cleared the Panama Canal and are sailing toward Florida. Two of four deaths on the Zaandam have been blamed on COVID-19 and nine people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the company said.

Catherine McLeod, an Ottawa resident who was recently transferred to the Rotterdam from the Zaandam, said the captain came on the internal television system last night and “proposed a toast to world health and our safe return home.”

Champagne and sweets were left outside each passenger’s doors.

The Rotterdam captain “is a class act, so was the captain of the Zaandam,” McLeod said in an email. “This guy has made some excellent speeches regarding his and the crew’s devotion to getting us out of here healthy.”

The ship was off the northwest coast of Cuba by late Wednesday morning. McLeod said passengers have been told they’ll reach Florida by Thursday morning.

“We were told that Holland America would arrange for our transportation home, and received a call yesterday from guest services asking our destination,” McLeod said.

They remain hopeful they won’t be stranded at sea.

DeSantis said he expected a resolution Wednesday after speaking with Trump, but port authorities later said discussions between the company and officials over the terms of docking were ongoing and they did not expect to update Broward County commissioners on Wednesday as it was foreseen at the Tuesday meeting.

DeSantis maintained Florida’s health care system is stretched too thin to take on the ships’ coronavirus caseload, but he said he would accept the 49 Florida residents on board.

“My concern is simply that we have worked so hard to make sure we have adequate hospital beds,” he said.

Holland America said in a statement Wednesday night that it is awaiting confirmation to disembark guests from both ships in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The company said both ships are scheduled to arrive at the boundary of U.S. waters early Thursday and will remain there while waiting for clearance.

The ships are on the Port Everglades docking schedule for Thursday afternoon at 1 and 1:30 p.m. ET.

Holland America also said guests fit to travel would transfer straight from ships to flights so they can return home. The approximately 45 guests who still have mild illness would continue to isolate on board. For the estimated less than 10 people needing critical care, Holland America says it has secured approval from a local health system partner that will accept them for treatment.

More than two dozen cruise ships are either lined up at Port Miami and Port Everglades or waiting offshore, the Miami Herald reported. Most have only crew aboard, but several still carry passengers and are steaming toward ports in southern Florida. Carnival notified the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday that it has more than 6,000 passengers still at sea.

Under normal conditions, when a passenger or crew member become too ill for the ship’s medical team to care for, they call the Coast Guard to provide a medical evacuation to an onshore hospital. Under the new rules, sick passengers would be sequestered indefinitely on board.

“This is necessary as shore-side medical facilities may reach full capacity and lose the ability to accept and effectively treat additional critically ill patients,” the Coast Guard memo said.

The document requires all ships in U.S. waters to report their numbers of sick and dead on board each day or face civil penalties or criminal prosecution.

Cruise ships with sick passengers must consult with the Coast Guard, which may now recommend keeping the sick person on board. The Coast Guard will decide if a transfer is absolutely necessary, but the cruise line would be responsible for arranging on-shore transportation and hospital beds.

With files from Liam Casey in Toronto and The Associated Press

Toronto police not issuing tickets for driving with more than 5 people in car

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Apr 2nd, 2020

Toronto police have issued a statement clarifying some misinformation circulating on social media regarding being fined for having more than five people in a car.

The issue was raised after a social media post showed a ticket someone claimed to have recieved after police in Scarborough reportedly pulled over a car and determined that the two people in the car were not related. The post showed a photo of the ticket, which was for $880. They claimed it was was for violating the rules of social distancing under the the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

“The Toronto Police Service is reminding people that travelling, or being parked in a car, with five people or less – including individuals from different home addresses – is not against the law,” read the statement released Wednesday night.

“The government directives apply to ‘organized public events and social gatherings’ of more than five people.

Police also reminded the public that any complaints about non-compliance with social distancing should be directed to 311 and not 911.

Police forces in York, Peel, Halton and Hamilton issued similar statements along with recommendations that if there are more than two peple in a car that they be limited to family members in order to control the spread of COVID-19.

FAQ: Canada Emergency Response Benefit

DILSHAD BURMAN | posted Thursday, Apr 2nd, 2020

In response to the coronavirus pandemic and the resultant job losses and financial uncertainty for Canadians countrywide, the federal government announced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to help those affected tide over the next few months.

What is the CERB?

The CERB is a taxable government payment meant to temporarily help those grappling with job loss or other circumstances that have resulted in sudden loss of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It offers $2000 per month and is paid in blocks of four weeks, which amounts to $500 a week. A maximum of 16 weeks or four months of benefits can be paid.

The CERB is available from March 15 to Oct. 3, 2020. You can apply no later than Dec. 2, 2020. Your payments will be retroactive to your eligibility date.

Benefits will start within 10 days of you submitting an application. There is no waiting period.

While the benefits are taxable, tax is not deducted when it is paid to you. You must report the CERB payments as income when you file your taxes for 2020.

Who can apply for the CERB?

You can apply for the CERB if you:

  • were let go from your job, your hours have been reduced to zero and you and do not have paid leave or other income support
  • were let go from your job and are eligible for Employment Insurance – regular or sickness benefits
  • still have your job but have been temporarily laid off and asked not to come to work
  • are sick or quarantined – you do not need a medical certificate as proof
  • are taking care of someone who has contracted COVID-19
  • are a working parent who has to stay home, without pay, to care for your children or other dependents whose care facility is closed
  • are self-employed and would not otherwise qualify for employment insurance (EI)
  • are a contractor and would not otherwise qualify for EI


What are the criteria to apply for CERB?

The CERB is only available to those who have stopped working due to reasons related to COVID-19.

If you are currently looking for a job, you are not eligible for the benefit. For example: students who may have had a job last year and were planning on working this summer do not qualify.

To apply for CERB you must fulfill the following criteria:

  • You must reside in Canada and be at least 15 years old
  • You must have a valid social Insurance Number
  • You must have stopped working because of COVID-19 related reasons or are eligible for Employment Insurance – regular or sickness benefits
  • You had income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of applying for CERB. This can be from employment, self-employment, maternity/paternal benefits under the EI program or a combination of those sources.
  • You expect to be without employment or self-employment income for at least 14 consecutive days within the first four-week period. For the rest of the benefit periods, you expect to have no employment income
  • If you are not a citizen or a permanent resident, you may be eligible to receive the CERB if you meet other eligibility requirements – including international students and temporary foreign workers.


What documents do I need to submit?

You do not need extensive documentation immediately to apply for the CERB.

You will need to provide:

  • You personal contact information
  • Your Social Insurance Number
  • You’ll need to confirm you meet the eligibility requirements.

You could be asked to provide additional documentation to verify your eligibility at a future date.


If you have stopped working because of COVID-19, you should apply for the CERB whether you are eligible for EI or not.

On April 6, the federal government is launching a single online portal to assist with the CERB application process. Until then, if you have lost your job and are eligible for EI, you can continue to apply for it.

In addition, you should also continue to apply for other EI benefits like maternity leave, parental leave, caregiving, fishing and worksharing as applicable to your situation.

Whether you receive EI or CERB depends on when you became eligible for EI:

  • If you are already receiving EI regular benefits, you will continue to receive them until the end of your benefit period.
  • If you became eligible for EI on March 15 or later, your application will automatically be processed through CERB.
  • If your EI benefits started before March 15 and end before Oct. 3, you can then apply for the CERB if you meet the eligibility requirements.
  • After you stop receiving the CERB you can still receive EI if you are eligible. Further, the period for which you received the CERB does not affect your EI entitlement.
  • If you have applied for EI but your claim has not been processed yet, you do not need to reapply for the CERB – you will continue to receive EI benefits if you became eligible for them before March 15. If you became eligible after March 15, your claim will automatically be processed under CERB.
  • If you are receiving maternity/parental or other special benefits and you cannot return to work after you finish collecting them due to reasons related to COVID-19, you may be eligible to apply for CERB.


You cannot be paid Employment Insurance benefits and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit for the same period.


When shall I apply for the CERB?

The CRA has set up specific days for you to apply:

If you were born in the month of Apply for CERB on Your best day to apply
January, February or March Mondays April 6
April, May, or June Tuesdays April 7
July, August, or September Wednesdays April 8
October, November, or December Thursdays April 9
Any month Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays

Source: Canada.ca


6 new coronavirus-related deaths, 18 outbreaks reported at Toronto long-term care homes

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Apr 2nd, 2020

The City of Toronto says there have been six more coronavirus-related deaths reported at long-term care homes in Toronto, bringing the total to 10.

The city is currently dealing with 18 outbreaks at long-term care homes.

Four new deaths were reported at Seven Oaks in Scarborough for a total of eight. The ages of the residents who died ranges from their 60s to their 90s with six over 85 years old.

At least 23 people have tested positive at the home on Neilson Road, including nine staff while another 54 residents are presumed to have COVID-19.

It is the largest outbreak at a long-term care home in Toronto

The other two new deaths were reported at Extendicare Bayview, where a resident in their 90s died, and one was at Rekai Centre long-term care home at Sherbourne Place. The resident who died there was in their 60s.

Extendicare has reported four cases, two staff and two residents. The Rekai Centre also has four confirmed cases, all residents.

Eleven of the long-term care homes have reported just one positive confirmed case, seven of which the confirmed case is a staff member.

Two other outbreaks have been reported at retirement homes in Toronto, Terrace Gardens where there are four cases and Village of Humber Heights Retirement Home with one case.

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