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Why do some people keep testing positive for Covid-19?

THE BIG STORY | posted Tuesday, Aug 4th, 2020

In today’s Big Story podcast, in casual discussion of the virus, the term “Long Haulers” is, generally, used to describe people for whom symptoms of Covid-19 can linger for weeks and months, long after the worst seems to be over. And that can be debilitating.

But that’s not the only kind of ‘long-hauler’. There are also people, we’re learning, who recover, but continue to test positive weeks later. Even without any symptoms. How long can this virus linger inside people? What can other diseases that stay with people for years and even lifetimes tell us about what we’re seeing in these cases with Covid? What do we still not know about how all this works?

Tech sector drives U.S. markets higher after best four months in a decade

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Aug 4th, 2020

TORONTO — The continuing strength of the tech sector powered U.S. stock markets higher in the start of trading in August after they concluded the best four months in a decade.

The S&P 500 reached its loftiest level since February while the Nasdaq composite set another all-time record.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average closed up 236.08 points at 26,664.40. The S&P 500 index gained 23.49 points to reach 3,294.61 after hitting an intraday high of 3,302.73. Nasdaq rose 157.52 points to 10,902.80 after reaching a record 10.927.56 in earlier trading.

The three factors driving the markets on Monday were momentum in technology after last week’s blowout earnings, a further rise in manufacturing activity in the U.S. and Europe and hopes that U.S. lawmakers will agree to another round of fiscal relief.

Economic data has consistently surprised to the upside, but it’s going to be increasingly difficult to beat expectations this month, said Angelo Kourkafas, investment strategy analyst at Edward Jones.

“I think it’s going to be a little more of a bumpy ride than we’ve experienced in the last four (months),” he said in an interview.

The Toronto Stock Exchange was closed for a provincial holiday.

Microsoft and Apple, which together account for about 12.5 per cent of the S&P500, saw their shares gain. Microsoft started the week up 5.6 per cent after confirming it was in talks to buy social video app TikTok in the U.S. after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to ban the China-based app over security concerns.

Apple was up 2.5 per cent on the day while other names also did well after beating earnings expectations last week. Amazon earnings rose 77 per cent, Apple was up three per cent, Microsoft nine per cent and Facebook seven per cent. Only Google declined.

About 85 per cent of companies on the S&P 500 have beat expectations, the highest rate for a second quarter since 1992.

“You can clearly see who is winning in this environment,” Kourkafas said.

As a whole, companies in the index saw earnings decline 40 per cent, compared with the 44 per cent decline forecast by analysts, he said.

“So the negative 40 per cent, even though it’s a horrible number, it’s better than expectations.”

The Canadian dollar traded for 74.72 US compared with 74.60 on Friday.

The September crude contract was up 74 cents at US$41.01 per barrel and the September natural gas contract was 30.2 cents at US$2.10 per mmBTU.

The December gold contract, which had the highest trading volume, was up 40 cents at US$1,986.30 an ounce after peaking at a record US$2,009.50. The September copper contract was up 4.4 cents at nearly US$2.91 a pound.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 3, 2020.

Companies in this story: (TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD)

8 more city-run child care centres reopen Tuesday

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Aug 4th, 2020

More city-run child care centres will be back up and running today in Toronto, nearly two months after the province gave their reopening the green light.

The reopening of eight more buildings means that close to half of all centres are now operational, and the city expects all 47 to be ready by the end of September.

“A phased approach to reopening child care programs is the right move,” Mayor John Tory said in a release.

“It will allow operators the time to make their spaces safe for children, their families as well as for child care operators and their staff. As we continue to reopen child care centres, we must do everything possible to protect our children so that we can provide safe child care options to parents who are eager to get back to work.”

Families are being advised to contact their child care providers directly to find out the reopening status in their neighbourhood.

TDSB’s reopening plan could implement quadmesters, no sports

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Aug 4th, 2020

Trustees with the Toronto District School Board will receive a report on Tuesday outlining the plan for the safe reopening of high schools in September.

Last week Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced that it would be back to class full time for elementary school in the fall, but things will look different for teens.

Lecce confirmed public high schools in the GTA will use an adapted model, meaning class sized will be limited to 15 students each in a cohort, and face coverings will be mandatory while on school property.

But the biggest change could be the implementation of a quadmester – meaning instead of two semesters a year, there will be four. In this new format, students would learn two subjects at a time for a nine-week period.

In this model, students would be in class Monday through Friday for half days and spend the other half of the day learning remotely.

“We look forward to welcoming students back to our schools and classrooms in September but will continue to remain flexible and recognize that circumstances may change depending on the evolution of COVID-19.,” Interim Director of Education Carlene Jackson said in the report.

“Regardless of the format school takes at the elementary and secondary level, we are committed to providing students with regular and meaningful learning opportunities as well as connectivity to staff while also maintaining a safe environment for the entire school community.

As well, the TDSB said sports will not be played when school returns in the fall and students will have to bring and all their school supplies with them to class, as they won’t be allowed to use lockers.

Floor signage, much like in grocery stores, will also be used in hallways to help with social distancing.

The TDSB said the guideline was created with consultations with union and federation partners, students, staff, parents/guardians, Toronto Public Health and the Ministry of Education.

Students will be expected to monitor their own health for any symptoms of COVID-19. Parents will continue to be allowed to opt their child out of in-person classes in favour of remote learning.

Nature’s calling but there’s nowhere to answer. Why we need to make public toilets a number one issue.

THE BIG STORY | posted Wednesday, Jul 15th, 2020

In today’s Big Story podcast, we can joke as much as we want about it, but the reality is that we all go to the bathroom, every single day. It’s a basic human need. Yet many cities are failing at providing accessible public toilets for everyone. What will it take for politicians and city planners to take the issue seriously and address the underlying discrimination and inequality? Which cities are doing it right? How has the pandemic highlighted the need for accessible public washrooms? Could this be a turning point?

GUEST: Lezlie Lowe, author of No Place to Go: How Public Toilets Fail Our Private Needs

You can subscribe to The Big Story podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle and Spotify.

You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

Some Ontario businesses allowed to reopen Tuesday as coronavirus restrictions loosen

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, May 19th, 2020

Some Ontario businesses will be allowed to open their doors Tuesday after being closed for two months in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The province is starting the first stage of its economic reopening, giving the green light to retailers, some sports centres, vehicle dealerships and other businesses to resume.

But the provincial government stresses those businesses still have to comply with public health guidelines such as physical distancing as they welcome customers.

Some business owners have expressed relief and excitement at the prospect of reopening, while others say they feel it’s too early to do so safely.

The province ordered the closure of all businesses deemed non-essential in mid-March and recently allowed those with street entrances to offer curbside pickup.

Ontario reported 304 more cases of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the provincial total to 22,957.

There have been 1,904 deaths related to the virus so far, including 23 that were reported Monday.

Detailed List of Stage 1 Openings

Kyle Mack | posted Friday, May 15th, 2020

This list is effective May 19, 2020, and may be updated when the corresponding emergency
orders are amended.

Construction
• All construction to resume and essential workplace limits lifted
• Includes land surveyors

Retail
• In addition to retail operating online, or with curbside pickup and delivery, all retail can
open under the following restrictions and guidelines:
• No indoor malls.
• Must have a street-front entrance (i.e., stores with dedicated street access/storefront).
• Open in-store by appointment and/or by limiting the number of people in the store at
any one time. Retailers would need to restrict the number of customers per square
metre — for example, one customer per 4 square metres (43 square feet) — to ensure
physical distancing of 2 metres at all times.
• Only fitting rooms with doors would be used, not curtains, to facilitate disinfecting.
Retailers would restrict use to every second fitting room at any one time to allow for
cleaning after use and ensure physical distancing.
• For further guidance on this sector, please refer to resources to prevent COVID-19 in
the workplace.

Vehicle dealerships and retailers
• Vehicle dealerships and retailers, including:
• New and used car, truck, and motorcycle dealers
• Recreational vehicle (RV) dealers (e.g., campers, motor homes, trailers, travel trailers)
• Boat, watercraft and marine supply dealers
• Other vehicle dealers of motorized bicycles, golf carts, scooters, snowmobiles, ATVs,
utility trailers, etc.
• Prior to Stage 1, motor vehicles dealerships were restricted to appointments only.

Media operations
• Office-based media operations involving equipment that does not allow for remote
working. For example:
• Sound recording, such as production, distribution, publishing, studios.
2
• Film and television post-production, film and television animation studios.
• Publishing: periodical, book, directory, software, video games.
• Interactive digital media, such as computer systems design and related services (e.g.,
programming, video game design and development).
• Media activities that can be completed while working remotely have been encouraged to
continue during the Restart phase.
• Filming or other on-site activities, especially those that require the gathering of workers,
performers or others are not permitted to resume in Stage 1.

Scheduled surgeries (public and private facilities)
• Non-emergency diagnostic imaging and surgeries in public hospitals, private hospitals
and independent health facilities, clinics, and private practices to resume based on ability
to meet specified pre-conditions including the MOH framework: A Measured Approach to
Planning for Surgeries and Procedures During the COVID-19 Pandemic, contains clear
criteria that must be met before hospitals can resume scheduled surgeries.
• Scheduled surgical and procedural work to resume once “Directive #2 for Health Care
Providers (Regulated Health Professionals or Persons who operate a Group Practice of
Regulated Health Professionals)” is amended or revoked, which relies on hospitals
meeting criteria outlined in A Measured Approach to Planning for Surgeries and Procedures
During the COVID-19.

Health services
• Allowing certain health and medical services to resume, such as in-person counselling
and scheduled surgeries based on the ability to meet pre-specified conditions as outlined
in A Measured Approach to Planning for Surgeries and Procedures During the COVID-19
Pandemic, as well as resuming professional services such as shifting Children’s Treatment
Centres from virtual to in-person.
• In-person counselling to resume including psychotherapy and other mental health and
support services. Some of these services were available in-person for urgent needs.
For example:
• Addiction counselling
• Crisis intervention
• Family counselling
• Offender rehabilitation
• Palliative care counselling
• Parenting services
• Rape crisis centres
• Refugee services

Community services
Outdoor recreational amenities
• Marinas can resume recreational services
• Pools will remain closed

Individual recreational sports
• Outdoor recreational sports centres for sports not played in teams will open with limited
access to facilities (e.g., no clubhouse, no change rooms, washrooms and emergency aid
only). Examples of sports centres include:
• Tennis courts
• Rod and gun clubs
• Cycling tracks (including BMX)
• Horse riding facilities
• Indoor rod and gun clubs and indoor golf driving ranges

Individual sports competitions without spectators
• Professional and amateur sport activity for individual/single competitors, including
training and competition conducted by a recognized Provincial Sport Organization,
National Sport Organization, or recognized national Provincial training centres (e.g.,
Canadian Sport Institute Ontario) with return to play protocols in place and no spectators,
except for an accompanying guardian for a person under the age of 18 years.
• This includes indoor and outdoor non-team sport competitions that can be played under
physical distancing measures. This includes:
• Water sports on lakes and outdoor bodies of water
• Racquet sports such as tennis, ping pong, badminton
• Animal-related sports such as dog racing, agility, horse racing
• Other sports such as: track and field, car and motorcycle racing, figure skating,
fencing, rock climbing, gymnastics, etc.
• Swimming pools will remain closed. As a result, water-based sports competitions are
excluded if not conducted on lakes or outdoor bodies of water.
• High-contact sports are not allowed even if they are non-team. These include sports
where physical distancing cannot be practiced such as:
• Racquetball, squash, boxing, wrestling sports, martial arts, etc

Professional services related to research and development
• Professional services related to conducting research and experimental development in
physical, engineering and life sciences including electronics, computers, chemistry,
oceanography, geology, mathematics, physics, environmental, medicine, health, biology,
botany, biotechnology, agriculture, fisheries, forestry, pharmacy, veterinary and other
allied subjects. For example:
• Agriculture, food research, horticulture or botany, entomological, forestry, livestock,
veterinary research and development laboratories.
• Bacteriological, biotechnology, chemical, nanobiotechnology, pharmacy, genetics,
genomics, computational biology, research and development laboratories.
• Computer and related hardware, electronic, telecommunication research and
development services.
• Geology, oceanographic, pollution research and development, and astronomical
observatories.
• Mathematics research and development.
• Industrial research and development laboratories.
• These examples are listed for clarity. Most if not all these services are already permitted
under the “Research” section of the List of Essential Workplaces.

Emissions inspection facilities
• All emissions inspection facilities for heavy diesel commercial motor vehicles, including
mobile inspection facilities.

Veterinary services
• Veterinary services can resume all services by appointment.
Animal services
• Pet grooming services
• Pet sitting services
• Dog walking services
• Pet training services
• Training and provision of service animals
• Effective May 16, 2020, businesses that board animals (e.g., stables) may allow boarders
to visit, care for, or ride their animal

Emissions inspection facilities
• All emissions inspection facilities for heavy diesel commercial motor vehicles, including
mobile inspection facilities.
Veterinary services
• Veterinary services can resume all services by appointment.

Animal services
• Pet grooming services
• Pet sitting services
• Dog walking services
• Pet training services
• Training and provision of service animals
• Effective May 16, 2020, businesses that board animals (e.g., stables) may allow boarders
to visit, care for, or ride their animal.

Park drinking over indoor gatherings? Experts say finding risk mitigation is key

MELISSA COUTO ZUBER, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Jul 31st, 2020

As bars, restaurants and house parties continue to play significant roles in spreading COVID-19, some infectious disease experts in Canada think it’s time to offer a safer alternative to drinking in public.

Cracking a cold one in a park may be a good substitution, they say, if only it wasn’t illegal throughout most of the country.

Drinking among friends in sprawling green spaces – where there’s much more room to physically distance – can keep people away from dangerously crowded indoor gatherings, says Dr. Zain Chagla, an associate professor at McMaster University in Hamilton.

“There’s all these reports of transmission in bars and house parties. So why don’t we mitigate that risk?” he said. “Let’s use the outdoors rather than forcing people indoors for their gatherings.”

Chagla likens the debate to sexual health scenarios.

While abstinence is the best way to avoid sexually-transmitted infections, asking people to refrain from sex doesn’t work. Making sex safer by wearing a condom is more realistic.

“Drinking in public isn’t by any means a perfect solution, but people want to drink with their friends,” he said. “Why can’t we do it in a way that’s less risky?”

While drinking in public parks is commonplace in many European cities, Canada has been slower to adopt those laws.

Some areas seem to be moving in that direction – or at least crawling towards it.

Park board commissioners in Vancouver this week voted in favour of allowing alcohol consumption in 22 parks around the city, though actual implementation of legal park drinking likely won’t happen until next summer.

Steven Taylor, a professor and clinical psychologist at UBC, doesn’t see the public drinking option as an either-or scenario where people will choose between enjoying beer in a bar or pilsner in a park.

They’ll likely imbibe in both, he says, adding that alcohol’s disinhibiting properties will lead people to pay less attention to safety precautions.

People are getting increasingly tired of the rules, Taylor said.

“And the longer social distancing drags out, the worse compliance becomes.”

Toronto and Peel Region moved into Stage 3 of Ontario’s reopening plan Friday, allowing bars and restaurants to operate. Patios within the province had reopened during Stage 2.

But indoor eateries and watering holes, as well as private parties, have proven risky environments for COVID-19 spread.

A sudden surge in B.C. cases led the province to announce stricter measures for restaurants, bars and nightclubs. And large clusters of cases were also traced back to parties in the Kelowna area.

Edmonton had 41 cases traced to restaurants last month, and a downtown Calgary establishment shut its doors two weeks ago after six cases originated there.

While Chagla agrees alcohol can cause people to relax or ignore physical distancing, indoor environments makes those settings especially dangerous.

“That transmission is happening not just because of the drinking, it’s all the things people do in bars – they get up close and personal, they interact with a bunch of different people,” Chagla said.

“We go to bars for a social experience.”

Being allowed to drink outdoors will take care of some of the risk, but not all.

The dangers associated with public drinking such as reckless behaviour, public drunkenness and the potential for drunk driving, make the topic controversial.

Taylor doesn’t think it’s worth it.

“Inevitably, there’ll be some bad actors who egregiously violate social distancing under the influence of alcohol,” he said. “My concern is that this could well precipitate a second round of lockdown.

“We’ve seen bored, stressed out people congregating in large groups and partying, and that’s leading to spikes in outbreaks. And alcohol is just going to fuel that, unfortunately.”

Dr. Ilan Schwartz, an infectious disease expert with the University of Alberta, says being able to drink in public doesn’t mean people will drink in excess.

The Winnipeg native has lived in areas with loosened public drinking laws in Texas and South Africa and said issues were minimal there.

“We don’t want to outlaw all behaviour just because taken to the extreme there can be problematic examples,” he said.

Schwartz says easing up on public drinking laws would be useful right now, during the short summer months of a lengthy global pandemic.

“We need to realize that we’re in this for the long haul and we need to make concessions so people buy into the program that this isn’t just a big conspiracy to suppress any joy in life,” he said.

“Anything that is outdoors – as long as people aren’t shoulder to shoulder – we should be encouraging.”

Public drinking rules differ from province to province, and municipalities often have their own bylaws. Drinking or holding an open container of alcohol in a Toronto park, for example, carries a $300 fine.

Chagla says people would need to be mindful of distance if public drinking laws were passed in their municipalities. Higher-risk individuals should still avoid those scenarios, he added.

“It would be low risk, but not zero-risk,” he said.

BLM protest arrest of Black trans woman charged with assault

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Jul 31st, 2020

Protesters from Black Lives Matter Toronto and Not Another Black Life gathered outside 14 Division Thursday night to protest the arrest of a Black trans woman who Toronto police have charged with assault.

In a release, police say the charges stem from an incident on Thursday in a residence in the College and Bathurst streets area.

Police responded to an assault call at the home around 1:35 p.m. They say what began as a dispute in the home escalated and an “assault and threats took place between two individuals.”

Moka Dawkins, 30, of Toronto, was arrested and charged with one count each of assault, uttering threats of bodily harm and failure to comply with probation.

Police say she has been given access to legal counsel and is scheduled to appear in court on Friday.

Posts on social media began calling for support for Dawkins on Thursday evening and protesters were heard chanting “let her go” outside 14 Division later that night.

WE fallout expected to continue as MPs seek more info, witnesses

TERESA WRIGHT THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Jul 31st, 2020

OTTAWA — The WE controversy that has been dogging the Liberals is expected to continue to follow Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government after Trudeau’s appearance before a House of Commons committee Thursday.

Opposition MPs on the Commons finance committee are now pushing to hear from more junior staffers in the prime minister’s office, and demanding access to cabinet documents.

They want more detailed answers about why WE Charity began working on and incurring expenses for the now-abandoned student-volunteering program on May 5, when it had not yet been approved by cabinet.

Trudeau’s chief of staff Katie Telford told the committee that another Trudeau aide talked to WE that same day, though she said he referred WE to the public service to talk about anything substantial.

WE’s Craig and Marc Kielburger have said those permanent officials told WE it could incur expenses before being awarded the agreement.

They said they wanted to get the program going quickly, and started work knowing they could lose money if cabinet said no.

In the rare appearance by the prime minister at the committee Thursday, Trudeau said he had initially pushed back when he learned the public service had chosen WE Charity to run the Canada Student Service Grant in early May.

He said he knew his own and his family’s long-standing ties to the WE organization would lead to significant scrutiny and wanted to ensure all due diligence was done.

The prime minister testified that he didn’t learn WE had been chosen by the public service to run the program until May 8, which was just hours before the arrangement was to be taken to cabinet for approval.

That’s when, Trudeau said, he put the brakes on the deal.

“WE knew that the selection of WE Charity would be closely scrutinized. We wanted to make sure that the process and decision were the best possible in the circumstances, so I decided to pull the CSSG proposal from the cabinet agenda for May 8 so that further work could be done,” Trudeau told the committee.

“We pulled the item from the agenda so that we could be doing the right thing, the way.”

The public service later came back on May 21 to reaffirm its recommendation that WE was the only organization that could run the student-volunteer program, Trudeau said.

Telford testified that the civil servants presented it as a “binary choice” — either they moved ahead with WE Charity to deliver the program or they wouldn’t go ahead with it at all.

Trudeau acknowledged his family’s involvement with WE: his mother, brother and wife have participated in and spoken at WE events, and have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees and expenses, although he testified the amounts were not previously known to him.

He stressed that he did not have any conversations with the Kielburger brothers during this time and that WE Charity did not receive any preferential treatment by him or anyone else in the government.

He also says he didn’t talk to his staff about WE Charity or its proposed involvement in the volunteering program until May 8, although he has since learned policy staff in his office had been working with the Privy Council Office and other departments, and they knew that WE Charity was under consideration to run the effort.

The prime minister and Telford also both noted that Sophie Gregoire Trudeau’s work with WE, including a podcast on mental wellness, has been unpaid except for expenses covered by the organization, all of which had been cleared by the ethics commissioner.

The Conservatives and NDP have called on federal ethics watchdog Mario Dion to widen his probe of Trudeau to include these expenses.

Dion is already investigating Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau for possible violations of the Conflict of Interest Act for not recusing themselves during cabinet discussions about the WE deal.

Meanwhile, the Canada Student Service Grant is now unlikely to be part of the $9-billion student aid program Ottawa is rolling out this summer, Trudeau said, adding that he regrets how the whole affair has unfolded.

Male seriously injured in North York shooting

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Jul 31st, 2020

A man was seriously injured in a shooting in North York late Thursday night.

Police responded to several calls for a shooting in the area of Falstaff and Springview avenues shortly after 11:30 p.m.

Callers reported hearing multiple gunshots and people were reportedly screaming and fleeing from the area. There were also reports of vehicles fleeing from the scene.

Police found a male victim suffering from gunshot wounds and his injuries are considered serious.

A nearby residential building was also damaged due to the gunfire.

Police say they believe the suspects fled the scene northbound on Jane Street in a white Honda Civic. No other descriptions were immediately available.

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