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Parks closed, tickets for partying as Kingston deals with returning students

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Sep 10th, 2020

Massive crowds and parties in an eastern Ontario university town have drawn criticisms from local residents and formal calls for greater co-operation to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Police and city officials in Kingston, Ont., said they’ve had to close a popular pier and beach due to crowding and issue a number of tickets since thousands of students flooded back into the city earlier this month. Local residents said they’ve also taken to the streets to break up parties in recent days.

Jeff Masuda, a Queen’s University professor, spent the early morning hours of Sunday on the long weekend trying to get dozens of Queen’s students — his neighbours — to stop partying and to abide by COVID-19 laws.

It didn’t work.

The maskless group shouted, drank and tossed beer bottles while hanging out outside and ignoring physical distancing guidelines, he said. Some yelled at the two police officers who were called to the area to deal with them, he said, while others took off to continue the night elsewhere.

Masuda walked around his neighbourhood near campus and said there were parties everywhere, including an abandoned hospital site where the same officers had shown up to deal with more revellers.

It didn’t seem like police were doing much, he said.

“There were hundreds of students mixing together across the university district,” he said.

“So now we are left in a position to wait and hope for the best. If COVID came, it’s already spread.”

The region has gone largely unscathed by COVID-19. There is currently one active case of the disease and 112 cases in total since the novel coronavirus made it to Canada. No one has died from the disease.

Kingston has a large student population even during the pandemic. While Queen’s University has limited in-person learning to about 6,600 students, or a quarter of its total population, many students learning online have returned to the city.

That has left Masuda, a professor of kinesiology and health, frustrated with the city’s plan to deal with partying students.

“Whatever plan was put in place, it failed,” Masuda said.

“It was a massive breach of COVID guidelines in the community.”

Mayor Bryan Paterson said the city, the local public health agency, police and Queen’s are doing their best.

Hundreds of Queen’s students flocked to a nearby beach and Gord Downie Pier, which led the city to issue an order to enforce physical distancing through threat of fines, Paterson said.

But police told the mayor there were simply too many people to enforce distancing, so the mayor closed the area through an emergency order on the weekend.

The number of visitors to the area had significantly increased last week after students returned to the city.

“Any other year, that would be OK, we designed and built that area for crowds of people to enjoy, but during a pandemic it’s too much,” Paterson said.

Last month, the mayor vowed to crack down on the massive parties Queen’s students have become known for.

City council approved the use of “administrative monetary penalties” that include fines for shouting, amplified sound coming from speakers and parties.

Bylaw and police officers have been out using the new laws, largely in the university district, officials said.

Since Aug. 28, the city said it has issued 45 such penalties for amplified sound, two for yelling or shouting and one nuisance party charge.

Kingston police said they laid five such charges over the long weekend.

“We’re trying to be proactive to make sure we can curb anything before it lights up here in Kingston, that’s the last thing we want,” Const. Ash Gutheinz said of cases of COVID-19.

Queen’s, for its part, said it’s been sharing all public health protocols with students and was “deeply concerned” to hear of what Masuda witnessed.

“Queen’s takes the safety of our community very seriously,” the university said in a statement. “We want to assure the community that we will continue to impress upon our students the importance of adhering to public health guidelines during these challenging times.”

Masuda said the city and the school should have engaged residents to help.

“We’re willing to put in more effort to do our part as neighbours to help the students help themselves,” he said.

The mayor said he shares the frustration of residents such as Masuda.

“This is a big challenge, I understand that, and if community members are able to help or to reach out to student neighbours, I think that’s actually a great idea,” Paterson said.

Masuda said he has since spoken to his student neighbours.

“They have been contrite and apologetic,” he said.

“With hindsight, I think many of them regret what has happened.”

Ford says Ontario will publicly report school outbreaks

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Sep 10th, 2020

Premier Doug Ford promised Wednesday to publicly disclose COVID-19 infection rates in the province’s schools and allow municipalities to reimpose public health restrictions if needed.

The pledge for greater transparency comes as the province begins to reopen its schools over the next two weeks for the first time during the pandemic.

The official Opposition had called on the government to centralize the reporting of COVID-19 outbreaks on schools, and Ford acknowledged on Wednesday that parents should have that information.

“I think it’s so important we report every single case as we did with long-term care, we’ll do the same in school,” he said.

Premier Doug Ford promised Wednesday to publicly disclose COVID-19 infection rates in the province’s schools and allow municipalities to reimpose public health restrictions if needed.

The pledge for greater transparency comes as the province begins to reopen its schools over the next two weeks for the first time during the pandemic.

The official Opposition had called on the government to centralize the reporting of COVID-19 outbreaks on schools, and Ford acknowledged on Wednesday that parents should have that information.

“I think it’s so important we report every single case as we did with long-term care, we’ll do the same in school,” he said.

Ford’s school reopening plan has been criticized by boards, teachers’ unions and some parents for not doing enough to cut class sizes and allow for physical distancing.

The government has repeatedly defended the plan as safe, and stressed that it has been developed in consultation with medical experts.

Toronto’s medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa addressed some of the concerns expressed by parents on Wednesday, saying just because one child contracts the virus doesn’t mean it will lead to widespread infection.

“I truly wish I could say that there won’t be cases, that there won’t be any cases of COVID-19 in our schools. But we know there will be,” de Villa said.

“Everyone, everyone in our community must do their part to help limit the number of cases.”

Dr. de Villa says anyone who tests positive will have to be out of school for at least 14 days. Students will only be allowed back in class when Toronto Public Health deems it safe for them do so.

She says letters are going home to all parents and guardians explaining the protections in place across Toronto’s schools.

“Over the summer, my team worked with local schools to help them plan re-opening. These plans include things we learn from other places, with schools already back. We have examples to follow about what works, and what doesn’t.”

In recent days, cases of the novel coronavirus have been reported in a number of schools in the province.

Ottawa’s French Catholic School Board said six people “associated” with five of its schools, which opened last Thursday, have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

On Tuesday, a school in Oakville said an employee had tested positive for the virus after participating in a staff PA day last week.

Gail McDonald said in a letter to parents that a staff member at Oodenawi Public School tested positive for COVID-19 just days before students returned to class. All staff who had close contact with the individual have been ordered by public health to self-isolate for 14 days.

The school was informed of the positive test on Monday, she added.

Under provincial guidelines, all schools are required to disclose COVID-19 cases to parents while protecting personal privacy.

Ford said he believes the province needs to disclose the numbers and the government is working on a plan to do that along with its regular COVID-19 data.

“I know they’re rolling this out over the next week or two,” he said.

NDP education critic Marit Stiles said the province must take ownership of the reporting rather than leaving disclosures to individual schools or boards.

“The Ford government tried to downplay and hide the growing tragedy in long-term care homes as the virus swept in,” she said in a statement. “We can’t let them make the same mistake with our children.”

Ford also said Thursday that if cities or regional governments want to impose additional restrictions, or close bars or banquet halls to limit the spread of COVID-19, he would support them.

He said they have the power to issue local public health orders, but action at the provincial level would be far too sweeping.

“You’re the mayors, make a decision,” he said. “We’ll support you. But to say that I’m going to close the whole province, it’s unacceptable. I wouldn’t close the whole province when … 16 regions don’t have one single case. It’s not fair to the rest of the province.”

Ford’s comments come after British Columbia ordered all nightclubs and banquet halls to close after COVID-19 cases began to rise in the province.

Earlier Wednesday, Toronto Mayor John Tory said the province could stop bars from serving alcohol at midnight to help limit virus spread in those businesses.

City of Toronto staff said in July they do not have the authority to order establishments to close early and the province would have to issue the order.

When Ontario entered Stage 3 of reopening this summer, Tory and other mayors asked the province to impose restricted serving hours but the Ford government declined.

“We have to watch the numbers. They are going in the wrong direction,” Tory said Wednesday. (The new cases) are occurring in crowd scenes and crowd scenes occur at parties and weddings but they also include bars … and sometimes the only way to deal with that is to have them close earlier.”

TDSB delays start date for majority of secondary school students

Lucas Casaletto | posted Thursday, Sep 10th, 2020

The Toronto District School Board says it has postponed the back-to-school start date for most high school students to Thursday, September 17.

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Students attending Special Education Congregated Sites, as well as other support programs, will begin on Tuesday, September 15.

“Given the complexities of the staffing and timetable process, we have adjusted the start dates of secondary school, in-person and virtual,” the school board said in a statement.

The board says if there are further changes to start dates schools will contact families directly.

The Toronto District School Board says it is the largest in Canada serving 247,000 students in 583 schools.

Toronto District School Board trustee Shelley Laskin said on Twitter the health screening process has also changed leading up to the return to class.

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As for the Toronto Catholic District School Board, classes for all students are still expected to begin on Monday, September 14.

On to Game 7: Raptors survive Celtics in double OT thriller

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Sep 10th, 2020

The Toronto Raptors’ second-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics has come down to just one game.

But after a thriller that took double overtime to decide, Friday’s do-or-die Game 7 might come down to which team has the most left in the tank.

Kyle Lowry poured in 33 points, including a key fadeaway jumper in the dying seconds, and the Raptors edged the Celtics 125-122 in double overtime on Wednesday to even up the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals at three games apiece.

Friday’s winner will meet the Miami Heat in the conference finals.

Norman Powell had 23 points off the bench for the Raptors and was outstanding in overtime. Fred VanVleet added 21 points in Toronto’s most balanced attack of the series. OG Anunoby and Serge Ibaka, who’d been questionable after spraining his ankle in Game 5, each finished with 13 points, while Pascal Siakam chipped in with 12.

Jaylen Brown led Boston with 31 points, while Jayson Tatum added 29.

The Raptors’ cold shooting down the stretch of regulation forced overtime with a 98-98 score.

Walker and Norman Powell traded three-pointers in the nail biting first extra period. A pair of Powell free throws gave Toronto a two-point cushion before Brown had two free throws to even the score at 106-106 with 18.9 seconds on the clock. Powell missed a three-pointer at the buzzer, forcing a second overtime.

Dunks by Tatum and Daniel Theis had Boston up by four when Lowry muscled to the basket to slice the difference to two. A crazy sequence that started with a Lowry steal finished with a pair of Powell free throws to even it up with 2:33 to play.

Anunoby connected from three, then Powell had a steal and a running layup to give Toronto four points of breathing room with 38.8 seconds left. Tatum scored, but Lowry replied with a spectacular fadeaway with 11.7 seconds on the clock. Tatum drilled a three, but Powell’s free throws with five seconds left secured the victory.

The Raptors trailed by more than 12 points in the first half, but their offence finally started rolling in the third quarter sparked by Gasol. The Spanish big man, who’d shaved his shaggy hair before the game, blocked Tatum, then knocked down consecutive three-pointers – his first points from behind the arc in the series.

VanVleet’s personal 9-0 run – three free throws after a Flagrant 1 foul against Marcus Smart, then consecutive three-pointers – gave the Raptors their first lead since the 1-0 to start the game. Toronto would lead by as many as eight before taking a 81-77 edge into the fourth quarter.

Boston regained the lead after Tatum made a three with 8:22 to play, but Lowry replied with two buckets from long range and Toronto was back up by five.

The Raptors didn’t score over the final 4:24 of regulation, and Theis scored on a layup and dunk to tie the game at 98-98 with two minutes to go. The Raptors’ defence held strong over the final two minutes, and Anunoby hauled down a huge defensive rebound with 2.6 seconds left. Siakam’s miss at the buzzer sent the game to OT.

Gasol’s emergence – finally – was a great sign for Toronto. He and Siakam had struggled since the NBA’s restart after the four-month COVID-19 layoff. His frustration was painfully clear early on Wednesday when he missed an easy lay-in early. He hollered at himself in anger and tugged hard on his jersey. Subbed off for Ibaka just seven minutes in, he then left the bench area to gather himself.

Boston took Games 1 and 2 of the series, and the Raptors battled back to take the next two sparked by Anunoby’s astonishing buzzer-beater with 0.5 seconds to play in Game 3.

But the Celtics regained the momentum with a dominant Game 5 victory, pouncing on a Raptors team in one of Toronto’s worst games of the season.

A fast start had been key to every game between these two teams this season.

“I’ll be honest with you, I can’t believe how important the first eight to 10 minutes seem,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said before tipoff. “I almost can’t even fathom it. I’m trying to not put it all on that, I think there’s so much more game to play, right? But you look at the four times we’ve lost to these guys (since the restart), it’s looked identical. It’s 25 to 10 or 35 to 18 or whatever at the end of one for whatever. . . a million reasons.”

The Raptors came out with that urgency Nurse wanted on Wednesday. But their three-point shooting woes continued. They went just 2-for-9 from distance in the first quarter. Boston’s shooting wasn’t much better though, and the Celtics led just 25-21 to start the second.

Boston stretched their lead to 12 in the second, but Ibaka connected on three consecutive three-pointers to pull the Raptors back to within five. The Celtics led 52-48 at halftime.

2020 GTA Staggered Return To School Schedule

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Sep 9th, 2020

With this year’s back to school schedule looking a little different, we’ve broken down which school boards across the GTA are resuming classes on each day over the next week and a half, by age group:

Thursday, September 10th

Peel District School Board

Elementary: Kindergarten to Grade 8: Students with last names H-O

Secondary: Morning Orientation

 

Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board

FDK to Grade 8: Students with last names G-N

Secondary: Grades 10, 11 & 12 Cohort A

 

York Region District School Board

Kindergarten: Year 2 students

Elementary: Grades 1 – 8, divided alphabetically by last name

Grade 9: Cohort A

 

York Catholic District School Board

Elementary: Grades 1-3

Secondary:  Grade 9 cohort A

 

Durham District School Board

Elementary: Last names N-S

 

Durham Catholic District School Board

Orientation Day for one-quarter of each class

 

Halton District School Board

Elementary: Optional Orientation, divided alphabetically

 

Halton Catholic District School Board

Kindergarten: Year 2

Elementary: Grades 1-8, last names G-N

Secondary: Grades 9-12 Cohort B

 

Friday, September 11th

Peel District School Board

Elementary: Kindergarten to Grade 8: Full day for students with last names P-Z

Secondary: Morning Orientation

 

Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board

Elementary: FDK to Grade 8: Students with last names O-Z

Secondary: Grades 10, 11, 12 Cohort B

 

York Region District School Board

Grade 9: Cohort B

 

York Catholic District School Board

Elementary: JK/SK

Secondary:  Grade 9 cohort B

 

Durham District School Board

Elementary: Students with last names T-Z

 

Durham Catholic District School Board

Orientation Day for one-quarter of each class

 

Halton District School Board

Elementary: Optional Orientation, divided alphabetically

 

Halton Catholic District School Board

Kindergarten: Year 1

Elementary: Grades 1-8, last names 0-Z

 

Monday, September 14th

Toronto Catholic District School Board

Elementary: One-quarter of each class

Secondary: Grade 9 students

 

Peel District School Board

Elementary: Full-day, last names A-K

Secondary: Full return to school

 

Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board

Elementary: FDK to Grade 8, last names A-L

Secondary: Grades 9-12 regular schedule based on cohorts

 

York Region District School Board

Kindergarten: Year 1 based on name

Secondary: Grades 9-12 Full schedule

 

York Catholic District School Board

Elementary: Grades 7 & 8

Secondary:  Grade 9 -12 Cohort A

 

Durham District School Board

Elementary: Students with last names A-M

 

Durham Catholic District School Board

Elementary: One-half of each class

 

Halton District School Board

First day of school for all students

 

Halton Catholic District School Board

Kindergarten: Year 1

Elementary: Grades 1-8 all students

 

Tuesday, September 15th

Toronto District School Board

Kindergarten to Grade 5 schools: SK, Grade 5

Kindergarten to Grade 6 schools: SK, Grade 6

Kindergarten to Grade 8 schools: SK, Grades 4 & 8

Grade 6, 7, 8 schools: Grade 6

Grade 7, 8 schools: Grade 7

 

Toronto Catholic District School Board

Elementary: One-quarter of each class

Secondary: Grade 9 students

 

Peel District School Board

Elementary: Full-day last names L-Z

Secondary: Full return to school

 

Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board

Elementary: FDK to Grade 8, students with last names M-Z

 

York Region District School Board

Kindergarten: Year 1 based on name

 

York Catholic District School Board

Elementary: Grades 4 & 6

Secondary:  Grades 9 -12 Cohort B

 

Durham District School Board

Elementary: Students with last names N-Z

 

Durham Catholic District School Board

Elementary: One-half of each class

 

Halton District School Board

First day of school for all students

 

Wednesday, September 16th

Toronto District School Board

Kindergarten to Grade 5 schools: JK, Grades 1 & 4

Kindergarten to Grade 6 schools: JK, Grades 1 & 5

Kindergarten to Grade 8 schools: JK, Grades 1 & 7

Grade 6, 7, 8 schools: Grade 7

Grade 7, 8 schools: Grade 8

 

Toronto Catholic District School Board

Elementary: One-quarter of each class

Secondary: Grade 10, 11 & 12

 

Peel District School Board

Elementary: All students Return

 

Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board

Elementary: FDK to Grade 8 all students return

 

York Region District School Board

All elementary students return

 

Durham District School Board

Elementary: Students with last names A-M

 

Durham Catholic District School Board

Elementary: One-half of each class

 

Thursday, September 17th

Toronto District School Board

Kindergarten to Grade 5 schools: Grades 2 & 3

Kindergarten to Grade 6 schools: Grades 2, 3 & 4

Kindergarten to Grade 8 schools: Grades 2, 3, 5 & 6

Grade 6, 7, 8 schools: Grade 8

Secondary: Full Return

 

Toronto Catholic District School Board

Elementary: All students return

 

Peel District School Board

Elementary: All students return

 

Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board

Elementary: All students return

 

York District School Board

All elementary students return

 

Durham District School Board

Elementary: Students with last names N-Z

 

Durham Catholic District School Board

Elementary: One-half of each class

 

Friday, September 18th

York Region District School Board

Kindergarten: Year 1 begin classes

 

Durham District School Board

Elementary: All students return

 

Durham Catholic District School Board

Elementary: All students return

Canadians reluctant to remove statues of historical figures now seen as racist: Poll

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Sep 9th, 2020

OTTAWA — A new survey suggests that while Canadians are divided over removing statues of politicians who harboured racist views or pushed racist policies, many oppose the “spontaneous” toppling of statues of Canada’s first prime minister, John A. Macdonald.

The poll by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies follows the controversial tearing down and vandalism of a Macdonald statue in Montreal last month by activists angry over his anti-Indigenous views and policies.

Half of respondents said they oppose the idea of removing statues or monuments to politicians who espoused racist views or implemented racist policies while 31 per cent said they support such moves and 19 per cent did not know.

The divide was smaller when it came to streets, schools and other public institutions bearing the names of historic figures shown to have been racist, with 47 per cent against renaming them and 34 per cent in favour.

Yet 75 per cent of respondents to the poll conducted by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies were against the Montreal-style “spontaneous” tearing down of Macdonald statues by activists while only 11 per cent said they were in favour.

Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque says the numbers suggests Canadians are more supportive of a deliberate process of dealing with such statues — and take a dim view of activists taking matters into their own hands.

The online survey of 1,529 Canadians took place Sept. 4 to 6. An internet poll cannot be given a margin of error because it is not a random sample.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 9, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Legault, Ford meet in Mississauga to discuss economic recovery

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Sep 9th, 2020

The leaders of the two provinces hardest-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic are meeting in Mississauga today to discuss economic recovery and health preparedness.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Quebec Premier Francois Legault have convened an inaugural summit to talk about what they see as key areas for co-operation.

They say the provinces plan to share lessons learned from the pandemic and work together to boost economic recovery and growth by reducing barriers to international trade.

Both provinces’ ministers of health, finance and infrastructure are also slated to attend, along with other officials.

The two premiers are expected to hold a news conference following the meetings this afternoon.

The summit officially began Tuesday evening.

AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine study paused after one illness

LAURAN NEERGAARD, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Wednesday, Sep 9th, 2020

Late-stage studies of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate are on temporary hold while the company investigates whether a recipient’s “potentially unexplained” illness is a side effect of the shot.

In a statement issued Tuesday evening, the company said its “standard review process triggered a pause to vaccination to allow review of safety data.”

AstraZeneca didn’t reveal any information about the possible side effect except to call it “a potentially unexplained illness.” The health news site STAT first reported the pause in testing, saying the possible side effect occurred in the United Kingdom.

An AstraZeneca spokesperson confirmed the pause in vaccinations covers studies in the U.S. and other countries. Late last month, AstraZeneca began recruiting 30,000 people in the U.S. for its largest study of the vaccine. It also is testing the vaccine, developed by Oxford University, in thousands of people in Britain, and in smaller studies in Brazil and South Africa.

Two other vaccines are in huge, final-stage tests in the United States, one made by Moderna Inc. and the other by Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech. Those two vaccines work differently than AstraZeneca’s, and the studies already have recruited about two-thirds of the needed volunteers.

Temporary holds of large medical studies aren’t unusual, and investigating any serious or unexpected reaction is a mandatory part of safety testing. AstraZeneca pointed out that it’s possible the problem could be a coincidence; illnesses of all sorts could arise in studies of thousands of people.

“We are working to expedite the review of the single event to minimize any potential impact on the trial timeline,” the company statement said.

It’s likely the unexplained illness was serious enough to require hospitalization and not a mild side effect such as fever or muscle pain, said Deborah Fuller, a University of Washington researcher who is working on a different COVID-19 vaccine that has not yet started human testing.

“This is not something to be alarmed about,” Fuller said. Instead, it’s reassuring that the company is pausing the study to figure out what’s happening and carefully monitoring the health of study participants.

Dr. Ashish Jha of Brown University said via Twitter that the significance of the interruption was unclear but that he was “still optimistic” that an effective vaccine will be found in the coming months.

“But optimism isn’t evidence,” he wrote. “Let’s let science drive this process.”

Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University in New York, tweeted that the illness may be unrelated to the vaccine, “but the important part is that this is why we do trials before rolling out a vaccine to the general public.”

During the third and final stage of testing, researchers look for any signs of possible side effects that may have gone undetected in earlier patient research. Because of their large size, the studies are considered the most important study phase for picking up less common side effects and establishing safety.

The trials also assess effectiveness by tracking who gets sick and who doesn’t between patients getting the vaccine and those receiving a dummy shot.

The development came the same day that AstraZeneca and eight other drugmakers issued an unusual pledge, vowing to uphold the highest ethical and scientific standards in developing their vaccines.

The announcement follows worries that President Donald Trump will pressure the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve a vaccine before it’s proven to be safe and effective.

The U.S. has invested billions of dollars in efforts to quickly develop multiple vaccines against COVID-19. But public fears that a vaccine is unsafe or ineffective could be disastrous, derailing the effort to vaccinate millions of Americans.

Representatives for the FDA did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday evening.

AstraZeneca’s U.S.-traded shares fell more than six per cent in after-hours trading following reports of the trial being paused.

Associated Press writers Matthew Perrone and Carla K. Johnson contributed to this report.

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