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Total number of COVID-19 cases in Canada passes 200,000

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Oct 20th, 2020

The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic pushed Canada’s total case count past the 200,000 mark on Monday as tougher health restrictions took effect in some regions facing a surge in infections.

The latest numbers from Saskatchewan lifted the national tally over the bleak milestone as the province reported 66 new cases of the novel coronavirus, though other provinces reported significantly more new cases.

The development came just over four months after Canada reached the 100,000-case threshold.

The bulk of the country’s case load has been concentrated in Ontario and Quebec, though numbers have been surging in much of the country in recent weeks.

The 200,000-case milestone isn’t all that significant in and of itself but it does provide an opportunity to examine how the country is doing in grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, said Barry Pakes, a public health and preventative medicine physician with the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

Canada saw its first confirmed case of COVID-19 in late January and marked 100,000 cases in mid-June, about five months later.

That it took almost as long to double the caseload to 200,000 suggests public health measures slowed the virus’s spread to some degree in that time, Pakes said.

“That’s not how infectious diseases work – they double, and they go straight up on an exponential line, and when we put in proper public health measures we’re able to dull that somewhat, so I think that’s a testament to what we’ve been doing so far,” he said.

At the same time, it’s crucial to remember that Canada is in the midst of a second wave of the pandemic, and milestones such as this one can sometimes serve as a reminder not to let our guard down, he said.

“The problem arises when we rest on our laurels and I think we shouldn’t do that, but I think we can be sort of hopeful that we won’t see some of the numbers and some of the really big societal effects that have been seen in the U.S. or Europe,” he said.

“But it does remain to be seen.”

Quebec continued to lead in new daily cases, reporting 1,038 cases and six more deaths Monday – the fourth consecutive day it has seen more than 1,000 new infections.

Ontario, meanwhile, reported 704 new cases and four new deaths.

The province has reinstated stricter health measures in four regions – Toronto, Peel Region, York Region and Ottawa – and Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s top doctor, recommended against traditional Halloween activities in those areas.

The tighter rules, which include closing gyms and movie theaters and barring indoor dining in restaurants or bars, kicked in for York Region on Monday but took effect earlier this month in the other three hot spots.

Williams said that when daily case counts began to rise again in September, the province predicted it would see new infections double every 10 to 12 days, which would have led to daily numbers in the 1,200 to 1,400 range by now. He noted that at the time, the City of Toronto also predicted seeing its cases double every six days if no additional steps were taken.

“Neither of us, fortunately, have seen that. Measures have been taken, they’ve dropped that down,” he said Monday.

The daily case numbers were slow to come down in the first wave but they did drop over time, “and I think we can do that again,” he said.

Manitoba reported 80 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, nearly two thirds of them in Winnipeg, as new restrictions on gatherings and businesses took effect in that city. The new rules limit gatherings to five people and force casinos and bars to close and will be reviewed in two weeks.

Meanwhile, the federal government announced Monday that limits on travel between Canada and the United States will remain in place until Nov. 21.

COVID-19 outbreaks declared at 2 Toronto hospitals, more than 30 affected

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Oct 19th, 2020

Two hospitals in the city core have declared outbreaks of COVID-19.

St. Joseph’s Hospital at 30 The Queensway and the University Health Network’s (UHN) Toronto Western Hospital located at 399 Bathurst Street are both reporting outbreaks of the disease within certain units.

In a statement, St. Joseph’s says they are “managing a significant number of confirmed COVID-19 cases” in four units at the hospital.

As of Sunday, there are a total of 29 people who are infected with the virus including 13 staff members. Of the 16 patients who have the virus, seven contracted the disease as part of the hospital outbreak.

The units affected are 3M, 4E, 2E and the 2L Medicine.

“We want to assure our community that St. Joseph’s is a safe place to receive care and emergency services,” said spokesperson Robyn Cox. “We have taken many measures to ensure this, including closing affected units to new admissions, further enhancing our cleaning and infection control procedures and implementing additional safety precautions for our staff, such as the mandatory use of face shields at all times in clinical spaces.”

St. Joseph’s says it will commence widespread testing of staff and patients in the coming days as well as implementing changes to its visitor policy.

Toronto Western Hospital says as of Oct. 15, two units – 8A and 8B – are seeing outbreaks of coronavirus. In a statement, the hospital says three patients and six staff members have tested positive for the virus as of Friday.

“There have been no additional positive swabs since that time. One unit – 8A cares for patients with the virus. The 9 cases above are presumed to be transmissions in hospital.”

UHN says their hospitals and emergency departments remain open and it’s safe to come to their facilities for medical care.

This is the second outbreak declared in both those units at Toronto Western in the last five months. The first outbreak outbreak occurred from April 28 to May 16. The hospital has not had an outbreak since June 5.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has also reported an outbreak at its Queen Street facility. They say two patients have tested positive for the virus on unit 1-4.

CAMH says they have implemented standard infection prevention and control procedures which includes closing the unit to admissions and transfers.

Man arrested after violently assaulting several pedestrians downtown

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Oct 19th, 2020

A 26-year-old Toronto man has been arrested after he threw a woman to the ground and assaulted several others in the downtown core Sunday morning.

Police say at around 9:15 a.m. a man walked into the intersection of Yonge and Dundas streets and struck the hood of a vehicle. He then proceeded eastbound on Dundas where he grabbed a woman and threw her to the ground.

The suspect then allegedly punched another man in the face before punching another man on a bicycle. He then assaulted several other people who attempted to intervene.

Diamond Ekanem is facing several charges including assault, causing a disturbance by fighting, shouting and swearing, and failing to comply with probation.

Restaurants near COVID-19 hot spots implement locals-only dining


Some southern Ontario restaurants are making the tough financial choice to bar out-of-town customers from indoor dining as COVID-19 cases surge in nearby hot spots.

Ramshackle Industries, which owns four restaurants and bars in Stratford, Ont., first introduced the policy when restaurants reopened in June, slowly dialing it back as the pandemic waned this summer.

Now that the province has reintroduced tighter restrictions in Toronto, York and Peel regions and Ottawa amid the second wave of COVID-19, Ramshackle owner Jessie Votary said the rule is being enforced again.

Tourists are a “huge part” of the customer base in Stratford, especially in the summer months, but Votary said the safety of employees at the worker-owned businesses had to come first.

“We want the people to come, we just are also wary and sensible about what potential infection of our team could mean, and what potential infection of our community could mean,” Votary said in a telephone interview.

The restaurants have been explaining the rules before seating customers, with staff checking IDs in a handful of cases, and some non-locals have been turned away from indoor dining.

Votary said reactions have ranged from understanding to upset.

“We have people who throw up their hands and storm out, we have people who swear at the staff, but those people are merely showing we made the right decision to ask those questions,” she said.

Staff take a conversational approach to discussing the rule and they work to find alternatives for out-of-town customers, such as ordering take-out.

“It really is about being pleasant humans,” Votary said. “It’s about setting boundaries and then having conversations.”

Full-time workers earn a living wage at the establishments, rather than relying on tips, which Votary said made it easier to keep up with salaries while weathering some hits to profits.

The City of Stratford opened an outdoor dining area this summer with space for 200 people to bring their food and alcohol from local restaurants, which helped Ramshackle restaurants direct visiting customers outside to enjoy their takeout.

While Ramshackle Industries was an early adopter of local-only dining rooms, other establishments already battered by the pandemic are taking a similar approach in the face of rising infection rates near their communities.

The Ale House in Cobourg, Ont., announced Wednesday it was limiting indoor service to locals in response to the restrictions on Toronto, which is an hour’s drive away.

Owner Todd Oberholtzer said he struggled with the decision but ultimately made the move to protect the community, which has many older residents and employees who work multiple jobs in town.

“It’s very difficult for me,” Oberholtzer said. “I was just hoping to do something for my community.”

The small pub already lost significant business this summer, with less seasonal tourists and local residents stopping in, and no outdoor seating area.

There is a sign on the door explaining the locals-only rule, but Oberholtzer said it’s tough to enforce. He recognizes many of the regulars in the community already, and plans to take enforcement on a case-by-case basis.

“We kind of do it more of an honour system than anything else,” he said. “I just really don’t want to get shut down again.”

Romby’s Tavern and Smokehouse in St. Catharines, Ont., announced a similar policy just before Thanksgiving weekend. In an Oct. 9 Facebook post, the restaurant said proof of Niagara residency would be required to dine in “as an extra safety precaution for our staff, our customers and their loved ones.”

“Niagara, we are getting closer to another shutdown, let’s do what we can to avoid that for the sake of EVERYONE,” the post said.

Other business types have been forced to adapt quickly to the targeted restrictions during Ontario’s second COVID-19 wave, tackling the challenge of customers who would usually be welcome hopping between regions in the densely populated Greater Toronto Area.

Earlier this week, gym chains L.A. Fitness and GoodLife Fitness asked their clients not to travel from Toronto and Peel Region to work out at open facilities nearby.

GoodLife took the measure of freezing GoodLife members’ accounts in hot-zone regions on Oct. 10, preventing them from booking workouts in other areas.

In Stratford, Votary said the pandemic has already put restaurants in “an impossible situation,” so the loss of a few indoor diners doesn’t make much of a dent in an already brutal year – and community spread would make matters worse.

“A COVID infection in our team or a rise of cases in our community that shuts us back down to takeout only is an additional loss,” she said.

Woman who claims she was abused by Basilian priest now heads victim support network

ADRIAN GHOBRIAL AND JESSICA BRUNO | posted Monday, Oct 19th, 2020

CAUTION: This story contains graphic content related to allegations of sexual assault and might be upsetting to some readers.

If you or someone you know are victims of sexual violence, you can contact Crisis Services Canada, a 24/7 hotline, at 1-833-456-4566 or you can find local support through the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres; The Government of Canada has also compiled a list of sexual misconduct support centres. If you are under 18 and need help, contact the Kid’s Help Phone online or at 1-800-668-6868. 

To this day, Brenda Brunelle can’t breathe when she tilts her head back in the shower to wash her hair. It’s the lifelong result of the sexual assault she claims she endured as a young girl at the hands of a Catholic priest.

Brunelle grew up in a devout Catholic family in Windsor. In the late 1970s, she went to St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic elementary school, and was an altar server at the church.

“My father sold tickets to have that Church built. We were pioneers of St. Vincent De Paul Church and we were proud of that,” she says.

As a 12-year-old, she alleges she caught the eye of associate pastor Father Michael Fallona.

Fr. Fallona is a member of the Basilian Fathers, an order of Catholic priests who to this day have a hand in operating schools in North America.

Brunelle claims it all started with Fr. Fallona paying too much attention to her at school. She says she felt uncomfortable about the way he over-praised her for small tasks and gave her long hugs.

“I know that he loved the smell of my hair and the color of it,” she tells CityNews. “He would stand behind me and fondle me. Smell my hair. Literally eating it, is how I would describe the experience.”

She alleges he would ask her to come to the church to help with chores. She says Fr. Fallona asked her to come change a lightbulb and claims that’s the first time the priest groped her.

“He held the ladder for me, and I climbed up,” she says. “As I was up on the ladder with my arms suspended in the air, I could feel his hands go up my leg – I panicked.”

This is the first time Brunelle is publicly discussing the details of the abuse she says she endured; “I’ve never disclosed [it] with my family and certainly not my husband.”

She tells CityNews her encounters with Fr. Fallona escalated from inappropriate touching to sexual assault.

One day, “he had me cleaning wicks off of candles used for a service at church,” Brunelle claims. “He reached behind me and was hugging me saying thank you for coming.”

“He was eating my hair again; he was fondling me with his hands again and at this point I could feel something in the spine of my back as he’s standing behind me. I know what that was today if someone was to ask me. At the time, it was an unusual feeling.”

“I was guided to sit on the chair away from the candles, which I was there to (clean). While I was sitting down he stood in front of me and before I knew it he had exposed himself. And umm… that was the last encounter I had with Fr. Fallona.”

Though the alleged abuse took place decades ago, Brunelle still struggles with sharing what happened next on that day.

“All of this abuse happened inside the Catholic church,” she says. “It didn’t happen in the basement, it didn’t happen in the rectory, it didn’t happen in school yard, this all took place in the church, in front of the altar, if you will.”

Fr. Fallona is 82 years old. CityNews understands he is living at a retirement residence for clergy in Toronto.

We reached out to the Basilians multiple times, asking for interviews with Fr. Fallona and Vicar General David Katulski. Our requests were denied. However, the Basilian’s lawyer sent CityNews an open letter signed by Fr. Fallona. The letter claims he never abused Brunelle or anyone else.

“Ms. Brunelle’s allegations that I abused her seem to be reported by the media as though her allegations are true, which places me in the position of having to prove it did not happen,” the letter states, “I cannot prove a negative.”

After reading the letter, it took Brunelle weeks to feel composed enough to respond.

“He denied it then, he’s denying it now. But the author of that letter, the lawyers that represented the Church, the lawyers that represented him, were all present at his discovery in the room that I also sat in with my own attorney,” she says. “They know the truth, they know the truth, so shame on them.”

A lifetime of faith

Despite the alleged abuse, Brunelle continued to be active in the Church. She says she hinted to her parents about her discomfort with Fr. Fallona, but never told them what was going on. She asked them if she could stop going to Sunday service, but her parents, who didn’t understand why, said no.

At the time, Fr. Fallona “said to me that he would forgive me provided I didn’t tell anybody,” Brunelle alleges. “If I did say something to somebody, I would go to hell.”

As a woman, Brunelle’s allegations place her in the minority of victims. One study of nearly 11,000 cases of clergy abuse in the U.S. between 1950 and 2002, conducted on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, found that more than 80 per cent of those abused have been male.

“I felt like I was contributing to that end result and felt terribly responsible that I made him fall from grace.”

For decades, Brunelle told no one about what allegedly happened to her. Her children were baptized and raised in the same church. She married her second husband there. A health crisis in 2008 is what she says prompted her to seek closure. She wanted to find Fr. Fallona and apologize to him.

“I believed I was responsible for what had happened. Not this priest. He was God,” she explains. “That it was the color of my eyes that he enjoyed so much, the smell of my hair, the color of my hair that … I felt like I was contributing to that end result and felt terribly responsible that I made him fall from grace.”

Brunelle says her experience shaped the rest of her life, telling CityNews she never had a chance to develop a healthy sense of sexuality or intimacy – something she says contributed to issues in both her marriages.

When Brunelle first reached out, she says the Basilians told her Fr. Fallona denied knowing her and refused to meet with her. That refusal, according to Brunelle, gave her clarity that she was actually the victim all those years earlier.

Later that year, Brunelle sued the Basilians and Fr. Fallona. Her lawyer Paul Ledroit tells CityNews if the Basilians “had acted in a rational, human, Christlike way, the lawsuit would have never been brought. Brenda would have never had to meet me. She was hurting for all her life.”

The Basilians refused to comment on the case. However, files obtained by CityNews indicate they sent a priest to interview Brunelle about her allegations. The Catholic investigator wrote in his report that her claims were “quite credible.” The priest also spoke to Fr. Fallona, who denied all the allegations.

However, it turned out the priest kept a meticulous journal for years. Discovered during the legal battle, it made note of Brenda in 1977: “Fix church up – Brenda Hartman” (Brenda’s pre-marriage name).

Brunelle says she had no way of knowing the diary even existed before launching her suit. Ledroit says the discovery was a turning point in her case.

During Brunelle’s suit in 2011, the Basilians placed Fr. Fallona on a personal safety plan. It included not going near kids without being accompanied by an adult aware of his situation. He was also prohibited from traveling outside the Archdiocese of Toronto without permission. He was also barred from working as a priest but allowed to keep the title.

In 2012, the Basilians settled out of court with Brunelle for an amount she cannot make public because of a non-disclosure agreement. In the open letter, Fr. Fallona disagrees with how the case was concluded.

“It was determined (by others) that a settlement was a more practical way to deal with the situation. As Ms. Brunelle knows, it was settled on the basis there was no admission of liability whatsoever.”

Brunelle now spends her time volunteering as the head of a Canadian survivors’ support network called SNAP. She’s calling on religious institutions across the country to release a list of priests who face credible allegations of sexually assaulting children.

When asked what she would say to Fr. Fallona today if she was given the opportunity, Brunelle tells CityNews: “He’s taken a lifetime away from me. I don’t know that I care to have anything more to say to him.”

Ontario fitness industry awaits outcome of COVID-19 protocols review

JOHN CHIDLEY-HILL THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Oct 16th, 2020

Members of Ontario’s fitness industry say they’re eagerly awaiting the outcome of a provincial review of COVID-19 protocols for gyms and similar facilities.

The province’s associate medical officer of health said this week that the safety guidelines for gyms were being reconsidered after a large outbreak of the novel coronavirus linked to a cycling studio in Hamilton.

Jason Sheridan, the senior vice-president of operations at GoodLife Fitness, said he and his colleagues with the Fitness Industry Council of Canada would “love the opportunity” to work with public health officials to create new guidelines.

“We are very open to navigating this situation together with them and supportive of the direction we receive from these medical experts based on an evidence-based approach,” said Sheridan.

“We are open to learning about the concerns surrounding gyms and offering solutions that would allow us to reopen.”

More than a quarter of Hamilton’s active COVID-19 cases are connected to the SPINCO cycling studio outbreak.

“Right now all gyms are being painted with the same brush”

The city’s public health unit said on Thursday that 47 positive cases were primary infections from the cycling studio, which recorded its first related case on Oct. 5.

According to Dr. Barbara Yaffe, the province’s associate medical officer of health, the cycling studio followed all of the current provincial guidelines but they still weren’t enough to prevent the outbreak. That sparked the current review, she said.

“We are open to learning about the concerns surrounding gyms and offering solutions.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Health said on Thursday evening that there was no timeline for the review to be completed.

Geoff Girvitz, director of Bang Fitness in downtown Toronto, said the province’s current guidelines put too much emphasis on how many people are in a fitness studio, and how closely they are standing together.

“If all we think about is risk factor in the context of aerosolized fluids, we can think about, from a common-sense perspective, how that’s going to flow, how that’s going to move around the room,” said Girvitz.

“I think it would be really helpful to have protocols based on density and airflow rather than an arbitrary number of people allowed in the space … Right now all gyms are being painted with the same brush which is problematic on both sides of the continuum.”

Gyms in Toronto, Ottawa, and Peel Region are currently closed as part of heightened restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 in those areas. Gyms in other parts of the province continue to operate.

“Folks, I’ve just got to ask you to try and work out at home”

In the densely populated Greater Toronto Area, both L.A. Fitness and GoodLife Fitness — two of the largest gym chains in Canada — asked their clients to not travel from Toronto and Peel Region to open facilities in nearby areas to work out.

Sheridan said that all GoodLife members in the hot-zone regions had their accounts frozen on Oct. 10 and are not permitted to book workouts at clubs in surrounding regions.

Premier Doug Ford spoke out against the practice of travelling to out-of-region gyms on Thursday.

“Folks, I’ve just got to ask you to try and work out at home,” he said. “The big fitness clubs are saying they don’t want you to come there and I understand so if you can, try to work out at home.”

Long-exonerated Guy Paul Morin ‘relieved’ for Jessop family after killer identified

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Oct 16th, 2020

Guy Paul Morin, who was wrongfully convicted of killing Christine Jessop before his exoneration in 1995, says he’s “relieved” for the Jessop family after police used DNA evidence to reveal her real killer.

“This morning, two members of the Toronto Police Service came to my home and told me that they had identified the man who murdered Christine Jessop through DNA found on Christine’s clothing,” he said in a statement released through his lawyer, James Lockyer.

“I am relieved for Christine’s mother, Janet, and her family, and hope this will give them some peace of mind,” he said. “They have been through a dreadful ordeal for 36 years since they lost Christine in 1984.”

Morin also thanked Toronto police for pursuing justice so many years after the murder.

“I am grateful that the Toronto Police stayed on the case and have now finally solved it,” he added. “When DNA exonerated me in January, 1995, I was sure that one day DNA would reveal the real killer and now it has.”

“Christine’s murder was a terrible and tragic event.”

Morin said he would not be commenting further on the case.

Today’s Announcement that the Toronto Police Service has identified the man who murdered Christine Jessop by CityNewsToronto on Scribd

Lockyer, who was instrumental in having Morin’s conviction overturned, also expressed relief at the news.

“At last. At long last,” he said.

Lockyer fought for Morin after he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

When new DNA evidence came to light, he successfully had the conviction overturned.

Lockyer told CityNews that he spoke to Morin on Thursday, shortly before police went public with news that Calvin Hoover, who died in 2015, was responsible for Jessop’s death.

“I think the important thing for him (Morin) and really for all of us who were so involved in this case … is that it’s going to give some peace of mind to the (Jessop) family.

“Guy Paul was exonerated a long time ago, back in 1995,” he added. “But of course as a person accused and indeed convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, he’s very relieved that they finally found the real killer as well.”

Calvin Hoover

Lockyer said the case, however tragic, can be a learning experience.

“It’s a good reminder that when you convict the wrong person you’re not getting the right person, you’re not getting the real killer. And Guy Paul’s arrest and conviction took the authorities in the wrong direction for a decade or more and that’s a terrible shame. But it is good to know that the perpetrators been finally identified.”

Lockyer said Morin’s focus, and his own, is now on the Jessop family.

“I can’t imagine how they’ve felt for all these years and how they feel now,” he said. “I can’t speak for them, all I can say is I hope it brings them some peace of mind.”

Lockyer also thanked police for sticking with the case.

“A day was too long, but 36 years was far too long. At least God bless the Toronto police for keeping at it and giving us an answer at long last.”

TTC recalls remaining 179 furloughed workers

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Oct 16th, 2020

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is now recalling its remaining 179 furloughed employees in the first week of November.

In April, 450 workers were laid off due to reduced ridership because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In August, 150 TTC employees returned to work and an additional 132 were recalled in September.

Previously, the TTC said the remaining workers would be recalled when ridership on all modes of transit reached 50 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

The TTC says the move is now necessary to meet service demands and because a new set of high-school students will be returning to class in November, plus a major planned capital project is getting underway.

This last batch of furloughed workers include 97 bus drivers.

Ridership on buses has increased faster than other modes of transit as more schools and businesses reopened over the last two months and daily ridership on buses has reached the threshold of 50 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

The TTC recently reiterated that social distancing may not always be possible on transit as more people return to work and about eight per cent of the city’s bus routes are seeing overcrowding issues.

The agency says it plans on “maintaining service flexibility and implementing demand-responsive bus service to supplement scheduled service,” as ridership continues to rise.

In addition to increased bus ridership, the TTC is hoping to move up a major asbestos removal program by an entire year. The project requires the closure of Line 1 between Finch and Sheppard stations for 10 days in December which will in turn require shuttle buses to run between the stations instead.

The transit agency will seek approval from its board to advance the project on Friday.

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