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Labour Day is weeks away. Why is the safe return to school still not a priority?

THE BIG STORY | posted Tuesday, Jul 14th, 2020

In today’s Big Story podcast, when the entire country went into lockdown a few months ago, it meant kids would be staying home and most of their parents would be too. But now, as businesses reopen and people start going back to work, parents are wondering where their kids are supposed to go. With Labour Day fast approaching, are we doing all that we can to ensure a safe full return to school and protect the educational rights of children? If not, how many parents will have to leave the workforce to provide for their kids? And can you take a wild guess as to which parent that responsibility will usually fall on?

Toronto launches drive-in entertainment plan including screenings, concerts

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jul 14th, 2020

Toronto is launching a drive-in entertainment program as the city extends its ban on outdoor festivals and large gatherings until September 30.

Announced on Monday, the DriveInTO program will provide movie screenings, concerts and other festivities at no cost to attendees.

To facilitate the screenings, the city will be working in collaboration with a number of Toronto’s leading film curators including Hot Docs and TIFF.

The events will take place at four locations throughout the city, including Ontario Place and Downsview Park.

Mayor John Tory said the program will help fill the gaps between revamped, digital-only events such as the Nuit Blanche arts festival, and the outright cancellation of major street festivals such as Caribana.

Tory acknowledged that the continued cancellation of the city’s biggest outdoor events may come as a tough pill to swallow.

“I know, like many other things I have had to sit here and inform you of, this is a decision that is very disappointing for many,” Tory said.

The news came just hours after Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his cabinet announced the initialization of the province’s Stage 3 reopening plan.

Under the next phase, which gets underway in much of the province on Friday, indoor spaces such as bars and restaurants will be allowed to open with limited capacity.

The Toronto, Hamilton and Peel regions are among those being held back for now.

In Stage 3, movie theatres and gyms will also be allowed to open with limited capacity, although with some restrictions.

Large outdoor gatherings and full-capacity concerts will remain illegal.

Riverdale Farm, High Park Zoo to reopen Tuesday

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Jul 14th, 2020

The animals at High Park Zoo and Riverdale Farm are welcoming visitors again starting Tuesday as Toronto eases pandemic restrictions that had kept both facilities closed for months.

“The reopening of the Riverdale Farm, High Park Zoo and conservatories in our city will provide families an opportunity to enjoy some of our city’s most treasured attractions,” Mayor John Tory said in a statement.

“By reopening these family-friendly attractions, we can provide kids a chance to participate in new and exciting experiences after a challenging few months. I want to thank staff for working hard to help us reopen these attractions in a safe and measured manner to ensure that residents are protected.”

Riverdale Farm, located in Cabbagetown, is home to domestic farm animals and gives visitors a glimpse into turn-of-the century farming in Ontario. Its doors will open at 9 a.m. and admission is free.

High Park Zoo, which is Toronto’s oldest zoo, will open at 7 a.m. and close at dusk. Admission is also free. The zoo is home to bison, llamas, highland cattle and reindeer.

However, only outdoor areas of both facilities will be open to the public. Both locations have installed signage to reinforce physical distancing measures and both the washrooms and water fountains will be cleaned on a regular basis.

Canadians torn on scaling back COVID-19 benefits to save money: poll

STEPHANIE LEVITZ, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jul 14th, 2020

A new poll suggests Canadians are torn on whether the federal government should tighten the taps on COVID-19 spending to keep the deficit from flooding the country’s future.

The Liberals last week revealed this year’s projected deficit sits at $343 billion, driven by an estimated $231.9 billion in COVID-19 spending, so far, and a massive drop in government revenue.

With the deficit at levels not seen since the Second World War, Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies asked 1,523 Canadians whether they felt the government ought to immediately and quickly begin to scale back pandemic support programs to Canadians and to business.

Forty-one per cent said yes to that question, 44 per cent said no and 15 per cent said they didn’t know or preferred not to answer.

The survey was conducted between July 10 and 12, just after the Liberals released their projections.

It cannot be assigned a margin of error because online polls are not considered truly random.

This week, the Liberal government announced that one of the biggest benefit programs — a federal wage subsidy — will be extended until the end of this year.

It covers 75 per cent of wages, up to a weekly maximum of $847, for eligible companies and non-profits that have lost at least 30 per cent of their revenues.

“Over the last three months you have seen me come out to talk with Canadians about what we’re doing to help you and your family, your employer, your local businesses deal with this pandemic,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday in announcing the extension.

“We’re going to continue to do that vital work.”

As of July 6, the wage subsidy had paid out $18.01 billion to 252,370 companies. Last week’s fiscal and economic update from the Liberals increased the overall budget to $82.3 billion.

The other marquee support program, the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit, is set to expire in the fall.

The $500-a-week benefit had, as of July 5, paid out almost $54.8 billion to 8.25 million people.

Of those surveyed, 78 per cent said they were worried about the size of the deficit and how it may affect things in Canada in the long term.

In releasing the deficit projections, the Liberals didn’t set out a plan for how or when they might get the books back to balance.

The survey asked respondents which of two routes traditionally use to cut deficits they would support.

In the survey, 60 per cent said the government ought to focus on cutting government spending, while 21 per cent said the focus should be on raising taxes.

TFC, D.C. United game rescheduled to Monday after COVID-19 test concerns

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Jul 13th, 2020

A morning that had promised to start and end early Sunday turned into a stressful all-day marathon for Toronto FC and D.C. United.

The teams were slated to kick off their MLS is Back Tournament at 9 a.m. ET at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex in the Orlando area. Minutes before the scheduled start, Major League Soccer called off the game — citing two problematic COVID-19 tests.

A round of pre-game testing Saturday had returned a positive test for a D.C. United player and an inconclusive test for a Toronto player. The positive test was considered unconfirmed until backed up by a second test.

While D.C. United made it to the playing field, Toronto never left the league hotel.

“Both teams participated in another round of testing (Sunday) and all players from the two clubs tested negative,” the league said in a statement issued Sunday evening. “Based on those results, the game will be played (Monday) morning at 9 a.m. ET.

“The player who received an initial positive test and the player whose test was inconclusive will undergo additional testing and will not play in (Monday’s) match.”

The league did not identify the players in question. Neither did Toronto FC, although GM Ali Curtis did say his player was asymptomatic.

The tournament, which marks the league’s first action since it shut down March 12 due to the global pandemic, has already lost FC Dallas and Nashville SC due to a rash of positive COVID-19 tests.

Sunday was another day of drama and doubt in the pandemic sports world.

“These days nothing’s really normal. If anything the normal is kind of uncertainty,” Curtis told a virtual conference call Sunday evening.

“There’s a different situation each different day, for each different week,” he added. “And you just have to adapt.”

It marked the second delay for both Toronto and D.C. United. They were supposed to meet Friday night but the game was pushed back to Sunday due to Toronto’s late arrival at the tournament because of the need for additional COVID-19 testing in the wake of a player reporting symptoms.

Players and staff were tested Saturday in advance of the game. Curtis said the team learned of the inconclusive test around midnight, prompting another test in the player’s room that proved to be negative. The Toronto player has been isolated pending the result of another test.

The rest of the Toronto team produced negative results in the latest batch of testing.

Curtis, meanwhile, started his Sunday with a 6 a.m. Zoom call, the first of many.

With the game expected to start at 9 a.m. Monday, both teams faced another early morning wake-up call. Toronto’s pre-game meal Sunday was scheduled for 5:30 a.m.

Toronto’s second game against the Montreal Impact, originally scheduled for Wednesday, has now been pushed back to Thursday. And D.C. United’s game against the New England Revolution will now be played on Friday instead of Thursday.

Wednesday’s game between the Vancouver Whitecaps and San Jose Earthquakes will now start at 9 p.m. instead of 10:30 p.m.

After the threat of lightning delayed Atlanta’s game against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday night, there were more delays and drama Sunday.

“We believe the tournament can still be conducted safely,” MLS deputy commissioner Mark Abbott told a virtual conference call Sunday morning. “And if at the point we determine it can’t, obviously we would make a decision then.

“In the case of Dallas and Nashville, the decision was made that based on the extent of the positive tests in those teams (and) their ability to train, that the more prudent course was to withdraw them.

“But we had established a set of protocols that are working as they were designed, which is to identify players that have had positive tests for COVID-19, to remove and separate them from the team and isolate them. And to continue the process of testing the other players … We view this (case) as the process working.”

Under league protocols, players who test positive are isolated while those who test negative “move forward.”

Abbott said because Toronto only arrived last Monday, the decision was made to await the results of tests conducted Sunday morning before playing the game.

Curtis said his team is still on task at the tournament.

“It’s an important competition. A lot of people have put a lot of work and effort into (it) … It’s important that we represent the club and we represent our city as best as we can.”

It all added to an already stressful morning for the teams given the unusually early kickoff time — made to avoid the Florida heat. Both Toronto captain Michael Bradley and striker Jozy Altidore had criticized the 9 a.m. start, saying it was not conducive to good football.

D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid suggested it was an inconvenience to fans, too.

“To every DC United supporter, our families & friends, I’m sorry you woke up so early to see us play, to then have the match postponed AGAIN,” he tweeted. “Especially after so many people planned originally to watch the game which was meant to play on Friday! Have a beautiful Sunday regardless.”

Curtis said while Toronto had always planned to show up late for the game, to avoid the heat for as long as possible, the team was on a group Zoom call abut what was going on with the COVID-19 test when he received the call from the league that the game was off.

While all 24 remaining teams are staying in the same hotel, they are isolated from each other in the MLS tournament bubble. Players and other personnel are tested every other day.

Curtis said his confidence level in the MLS protocols remains “very high.”

“When you look at the data, if you strip out the outliers of Dallas and Nashville, I think the numbers are fairly favourable” he said. “And then when you’re in the bubble you see some of the measures that are taken and that gives you confidence.”

But outside, the number of positive cases continues to climb.

On Sunday, Florida reported 15,300 new cases over the last 24 hours — a single-day record in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic.

There were some surprises in Toronto’s planned starting 11 Sunday.

While it fielded the same back five as it had in its last league game March 7, there were four changes further forward. Bradley and Argentine newcomer Pablo Piatti, who both missed the opening two games of the season, were to return from injury.

Tsubasa Endoh and Ayo Akinola were also in the starting 11.

Altidore did not make the matchday 23. He was late joining the team after spending the lockdown at his Florida home and had to train on his own while fulfilling quarantine.

Canadian midfielder Jonathan Osorio was a surprise omission from the matchday 23.

Sunday evening’s Sporting Kansas City against Minnesota United game went ahead despite confirmation Friday by Kansas City that one of its players had tested positive.

Kelly Preston, actor and wife of John Travolta, dies at 57

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Monday, Jul 13th, 2020

Actor Kelly Preston has died at age 57.

John Travolta, Preston’s husband of 28 years, confirmed late Sunday that his wife had died after a two-year battle with breast cancer.

Preston enjoyed a lengthy career in film and television, appearing in “Jerry Maguire,” “Twins” and at times starring with her husband in films like “Battlefield Earth” and “Gotti.”

The couple was married in 1991 in Paris after meeting on a film set, and had three children together.

They experienced tragedy in 2009 when their son Jett died after a seizure in the Bahamas.

View this post on Instagram

It is with a very heavy heart that I inform you that my beautiful wife Kelly has lost her two-year battle with breast cancer. She fought a courageous fight with the love and support of so many.  My family and I will forever be grateful to her doctors and nurses at MD Anderson Cancer Center, all the medical centers that have helped, as well as her many friends and loved ones who have been by her side. Kelly’s love and life will always be remembered. I will be taking some time to be there for my children who have lost their mother, so forgive me in advance if you don’t hear from us for a while.  But please know that I will feel your outpouring of love in the weeks and months ahead as we heal. All my love, JT

A post shared by John Travolta (@johntravolta) on


Man fatally shot outside Scarborough mall identified

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Jul 13th, 2020

Police say a man who was shot outside Scarborough Town Centre shopping mall Friday afternoon has died.

Police were called to the mall near Ellesmere and McCowan roads just after 1:30 p.m. and located a man at the entrance of a store suffering from a gunshot wound to the abdomen.

The man was transported to a trauma centre where he later died of his injuries.

He’s been identified as 26-year-old Jordon Marcelle of Toronto.

At the time police said they did not have a motive for the shooting but would not rule out that he may have been targeted.

No suspect descriptions have been released but police did say a dark coloured SUV was seen fleeing the area. It’s believed police may have recovered the vehicle but have not released any further updates.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the police or Crime Stoppers.

City’s altered day camps start Monday

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Jul 13th, 2020

Children are heading to day camps on Monday as the City of Toronto launches CampTO amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Registration started last month to fill up the more than 32,000 spaces available for kids ages six to 12.

City-run summer camps will run over eight weeks at 150 locations. They include a variety of programs including dance, drama, music, arts and crafts and active games.

Approximately 68,000 summer camp registrations were cancelled in mid-May due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The City said CampTO programs will meet health guidelines designed in consultation with Toronto Public Health and in alignment with provincial health guidelines for day camps. Guidelines include smaller groups and lower capacity, physical distancing, mandatory health screening and enhanced facility cleaning.

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