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Man injured in possible targeted shooting in Thornhill

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Oct 23rd, 2020

A man is in hospital and another person is in custody after a shooting overnight in Thornhill.

Emergency crews were called to the scene near Proctor and Henderson avenues just before 1 a.m. Friday.

Police said the victim suffered a gunshot wound. He was rushed into surgery and is expected to live.

Police believe this may have been a targeted shooting.

One person was taken into police custody and officers are searching for a second suspect. There is not believed to be a threat to public safety at this time.

Ontario businesses to non-locals: stay home

TINA YAZDANI AND NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Oct 23rd, 2020

The province’s message to people living in hot zones: don’t travel outside your region.

Many businesses outside Toronto, York and Peel have implemented locals-only policies, following the Ontario government’s message to those in hotspots not to travel outside their regions.

“I think in the circumstances that we’re in right now, we really need to listen to the premier,” says Oakville Mayor Rob Burton.

Implementing the policy has been a difficult decision for many entrepreneurs, who are now forced to weigh safety against profits.

In a regular year, much of Stratford, Ontario’s business comes from non-residents who come to town to catch a show at the Stratford Festival, visit the shops, and grab a meal. While restauranteur Jessie Votary would like to welcome in visitors, she says now isn’t the time.

The four restaurants she owns in town don’t take patrons who live more than 50 kilometres away.

“Some people are lovely” when they learn of the rule, says Votary. But “there are some folks that are very, very angry. I get, ‘How dare you?’ ‘Don’t you want my money?’ is another line I hear frequently.”

Her businesses, already taking a hit from reducing capacity to comply with safety rules, don’t benefit from barring would-be patrons.

“Of course we want to see tourists,” she says, “but I also don’t want a global pandemic to last longer than it has to.”

The consequences of a business not protecting against COVID are clear: becoming the centre of an outbreak. A situation that could force their community into Ontario’s “modified stage two” of pandemic restrictions.

David Soberman, professor of marketing at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management notes such a rollback would have long-term consequences for regions.

“If we’re not able to get the pandemic under control, it’s going to be a lot more devastating for these regions,” he says, “because the restrictions that will have to be implemented will be tougher.”

Gyms are also taking action. Chains including GoodLife and LA Fitness have asked their members not to travel to nearby cities if they’re from hot zones. Goodlife has even frozen accounts to prevent those in Toronto, Peel or York from booking workouts in other areas.

It may be tempting for those living in COVID hot zones to get out of town, and enjoy some indoor dining where they can, but health officials right across the province have warned against non-essential travel as it could lead to further spread of the virus in regions that are seeing low case counts. It is a hard pill to swallow for areas that rely on visitors.

“In the short term, this is going to be really tough on some of the cities that depend on traffic coming from Toronto, like Niagara, like St. Catherine’s, like the wine region,” notes Soberman.

In fact, without tourists from the United States, some wineries say GTA visitors are crucial for business.

“We’re really thankful for it,” says Doug Whitty, president of 13th Street Winery in St. Catharines, Ont. “People are discovering there’s a really great wine region right in their own backyard; many of them were not aware of it.”

He adds that while there is concern about people travelling from hot spots to visit, his winery has worked on lowering their risk: “We put all the safety protocols in place to deal with customers no matter where they come from.”

Hospitals, long-term care homes have little room for second-wave surge, inquiry hears

LIAM CASEY, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Oct 23rd, 2020

Hospitals and long-term care homes are nearly at capacity and won’t be able to handle a surge in COVID-19 patients during the second wave of the pandemic, an independent commission has heard.

While there are plenty of physical spaces set to handle an influx in patients, which include many field hospitals ready to go, there is no one to staff them, the Ontario Hospital Association told the Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission earlier this month.

That leaves hospitals across the province with only one quick solution, which they have dubbed the “dimmer switch” — shutting down elective surgeries once again to free up more beds and staff, the association said.

The commission,  which is investigating how the novel virus spread in the long-term care system, isn’t open to the public, but transcripts of testimony are posted online days later. The hospital association testified on Oct. 5, and the transcript was posted two weeks later.

Barbara Collins, the CEO of Humber River Hospital, testified that about 5,000 hospital patients in the province could be transferred to long-term care homes to continue their recovery. But those homes, she said, have no room, partially due to a government rule that limits use of three- and four-bedroom wards, which proved deadly during the first wave of the pandemic.

“We survived last time, largely because we cancelled surgery,” Collins told the commission.

“It is being spoken about as a dimmer switch this time.”

That option, which led to a backlog of nearly 200,000 surgeries in Ontario, remains the best — and potentially only — option for hospitals to quickly free up space and staff to handle a rush of COVID-19 patients, she said.

In the early days of the pandemic, the province focused on creating space in hospitals, but the COVID-19 surge occurred in long-term care homes, the commission has previously heard.

In addition to cancelling surgeries, hospitals moved as many patients as possible to long-term care facilities in February and March, said Gillian Kernaghan, the CEO of St. Joseph’s Health Care in London, Ont.

That set the stage for the novel coronavirus to tear through the homes with deadly effects.

“It meant that when long-term care started to see cases with COVID, they had no places to isolate people because they were full,” Kernaghan said.

Many long-term care homes were overrun by COVID-19, especially in March and April before the province finally launched its action plan to deal with the catastrophic outbreaks in nursing homes.

To date, 1,910 long-term care residents have died of the disease.

Now, with elective surgeries back on, hospitals are near capacity, said Anthony Dale, the association’s president.

And this time around, the health-care system faces another crisis: staffing.

“The challenge is that long-term care homes, hospitals, home care, are all facing human resource shortages right now, and so it is not actually the physical capacity we are worried about right now,” Kernaghan said.

She said the province’s directive to only allow staff to work with one employer has also contributed to the human resource crisis in long-term care homes.

“We probably had 10 to 12 homes that we worked with very actively every day for whom staffing crisis was precipitated by the single-employer directive, and more commonly the person picked the hospital to work in because of lots of reasons,” Kernaghan said.

“And this is when it became somewhat ridiculous, because what we then had to do when we had a staffing crisis, we went to the hospital. They sent the same staff member back technically as a hospital staff member to solve the problem in the long-term care home.”

Dale said he would like the province to rethink it’s single-employer edict.

“Staffing shortages, as the members have said, remains a very significant issue, particularly in long-term care, so we do recommend a thoughtful re-evaluation of the universal application of the single-employer policy,” he said.

Dale also warned that the current setup to fight COVID-19 in Ontario, which relies heavily on hospitals and their staffs, is “precarious.”

“There is a huge amount of risk uploaded into the system, and with our colleagues in long-term care facing the challenges that they are, even with the assistance of hospitals, this is quite a precarious situation, and it is why we have been so aggressive in calling for new public health measures to stop community spread,” Dale said.

There are “historic high numbers” of patients now in hospital who do not need to be there, but have nowhere else to recover, he said.

Kernaghan said there is no ability to ramp up staffing at both hospitals and long-term care homes in rural Ontario, partially because there is no child-care help.

“In many of our rural regions, there is no staff to hire,” Kernaghan said. “It is not for lack of trying, I can assure you.”

The staffing challenge in cities is different, she said, with many staff having to stay home if their child is sick with COVID-19 or have been exposed to the disease.

Study shows novel coronavirus can live on skin for 9 hours, but what does that mean?

MELISSA COUTO ZUBER | posted Thursday, Oct 22nd, 2020

A recent study suggests the novel coronavirus can live on human skin for up to nine hours, but experts say those findings aren’t as alarming as they sound.

The study by Japanese researchers, published earlier this month in the science journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, looked at how long viruses can survive on human skin based on samples collected from cadavers about a day after death.

The findings suggest that the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, can remain active for 9.04 hours – nearly five times longer than the survival time of the pathogen that causes the flu.

The study also showed that an 80 per cent ethanol-based sanitizer can kill the novel coronavirus in a matter of 15 seconds.

Cynthia Carr, an epidemiologist in Winnipeg, says that’s her main take-away from the study.

“It’s an important public health message to remind people that even though the virus can last basically a full workday in a lab setting, you can quickly get rid of it if you just wash your hands,” she said.

“It’s not about panicking and having a full-body shower every time you get home. It’s about remembering that if the virus is on your hand and you wipe your nose or put your fingers in your mouth, that’s where the opportunity is to get infected.”

Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, says people are less likely to contract COVID-19 from touching a surface than from having close contact with an infected person.

He suspects the reason for that has to do with the viral dose on surfaces versus that in droplets or aerosols. Coming into contact with small viral load on a surface likely won’t result in a severe infection, he says, adding that our bodies may fight off a very mild case without us even realizing we have it.

“I don’t think (this study) is anything we need to be too concerned about,” Furness said. “If it were, clinically we would be seeing that touch matters a lot more. And we’re not.”

Furness says public health strategies over the last few months have emphasized mask-wearing and avoiding gatherings “because they matter more.”

However, even someone who’s asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic can transmit the virus, so Furness says it’s still important to wash your hands on a regular basis.

“I don’t want anyone thinking that touch doesn’t matter at all. You can still pick up the virus from touch,” Furness said. “And you can pick up a different virus during COVID that weakens your body, and then if you do get COVID you can have a worse outcome.”

The experts say it’s also important to remember that studies done in lab settings, under perfectly controlled conditions, don’t necessarily translate to the outside world.

Carr said the study in Japan was done in warm, humid conditions, which the virus is known to thrive in.

Using skin samples from immobile cadavers could also play a role in how long the virus remained on that surface, she added.

“My understanding is that the virus is relatively fragile,” Carr said. “So I don’t know how long it would be detectable on your hand in a real-life situation where you’re moving around.”

Plenty of lab studies have been conducted since the pandemic began showing how long the novel coronavirus can survive on different surfaces. Another recent one found the virus could live on banknotes for up to 28 days.

But Furness says to take that with a grain of salt.

“It’s almost like a little perverse competition to see who can keep COVID alive the longest, and I don’t think that’s fair,” he said. “Saying it can survive on a banknote for several days – OK, when the banknote is in the dark not being disturbed, and with perfect humidity and so on and so forth. That’s when it becomes a bit dodgy.”

And detecting the virus on a surface isn’t the same as determining whether it’s strong enough to infect someone, Carr warned.

“That’s where we have a lack of knowledge,” she said. “It could be (detectable) for nine hours, six hours, 12 hours, but again the main take-away for me is how quickly it can be eradicated if you just wash your hands.”

For Furness, the interesting part of the Japan study was its comparison to the regular flu virus, which lasted on average slightly less than two hours on skin surfaces.

He says that may provide a potential clue as to why the novel coronavirus is so transmissible.

“It sheds a little bit of light on the fact that this is a tough customer, that this is a relatively hardy virus compared to flu,” he said. “And it would help explain why this is so much more contagious than something like the flu.”

3 charged for drug possession, identity theft after downtown traffic stop

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Oct 22nd, 2020

Toronto police say they’ve arrested three people who are facing drug and fraud related charges after stopping a car to check if the driver was impaired by drugs.

Officers pulled over the car in the Fort York Boulevard and Telegram Mews area around 7 p.m. on Monday.

They found three people in the car and a large amount of cannabis and money was seized from the vehicle. Police also found and seized altered duplicates of legal identification documents.

Police say the duplicate documents have been used to defraud people of over $40,000.

Brandy Kinghan, 43, from Stayner is facing multiple charges including nine counts of forgery and six counts of identity theft. Police have released a photo of Kinghan(see above).

The other two people in the car are facing several counts of drug-related charges.

Abdirahman Dore, 31, from Waterloo and Zackery Sheard, 22, from Sarnia are both charged with possession of proceeds of crime over $5,000, possession for the purpose of trafficking and possession of Cannabis Over 30 grams. Sheard is facing additional charges for possession of illegal substances and failure to comply with probation.

They appeared in court on Wednesday and police say the investigation is ongoing.

FBI says Iran and Russia have taken ‘specific actions’ to influence U.S. elections

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Oct 22nd, 2020

The Federal Bureau of Investigation says Iran and Russia have taken “specific actions” to influence public opinion with regards to the U.S. elections.

In a press conference on Wednesday night, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said some voter registration information has been acquired by both countries.

“This data can be used by foreign actors to attempt to communicate false information to registered voters that they hope will cause confusion,” he said.

Ratcliffe said Iran has already sent spoof emails “designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest and damage President Trump.”

He added that Iran has been distributing other content that includes a video that implies that people could cast fraudulent ballots, even from overseas.

“This video and any claims about such allegedly fraudulent ballots are not true,” said Ratcliffe, calling the actions “desperate attempts by desperate adversaries.”

Ratcliffe said they have not seen similar actions from Russia but are prepared for any eventuality and assured the American people their votes are secure.

FBI Director Chris Wray added that the agency is also working with private companies and social media platforms to make sure they’re not being used to spread misinformation and propaganda.

“We are not going to tolerate foreign interference in our elections or any criminal activity that threatens the sanctity of your vote or undermines public confidence in the outcome of the election,” he said.

Virtual court appearance today for Alek Minassian as his trial nears

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Oct 22nd, 2020

The man who killed 10 people when he drove a rental van down a busy sidewalk is set to appear in virtual court today as his trial nears.

Alek Minassian faces 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder in connection with the April 2018 incident.

Court is grappling with the logistics of holding the high-profile murder trial set to begin on Nov. 9 under strict COVID-19 courtroom limits.

Crown attorney Joseph Callaghan said last week the trial may be held over Zoom with the option of allowing families and the public to watch in a large courtroom.

Justice Anne Molloy said last week the main issue remains the 10-person courtroom limit as set out by the chief justice earlier this month.

Minassian’s trial by judge alone was set to begin on April 6, but was postponed because of the pandemic.

In early March, Minassian admitted in court to planning and carrying out the attack.

The judge has said the case will turn on Minassian’s state of state of mind at the time of the attack, not whether he did it.

2 sisters shot at Scarborough playground describe horror through drawings, handwritten words

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Oct 21st, 2020

It was a shooting that stunned the city three summers ago, when gunmen opened fire in a Scarborough playground – sending children running for their lives.

Police estimate there were about 11 children playing in the park at the time of the shooting on June 14, 2018 and believe at least 10 shots were fired.

Now, the two young sisters who were struck are describing the horror of that day in simple detail, through handwritten words and drawings.

The victim impact statements were submitted for the sentencing hearing for T’Quan Robertson, one of the men charged.

RELATED: Crime Stoppers offering $50,000 for information leading to arrest of alleged playground shooter

The younger sister writes, “I was outside playing and then I heard gunshots… the next I know the front of my shirt was red.”

The older sister described screaming when she saw her leg was bleeding — her statement also included a self-portrait of herself next to a basketball net and a gun.

Robertson pleaded guilty to one count of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault.  He’s scheduled to be sentenced October 29.

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