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Ontario closes all outdoor recreational facilities due to coronavirus

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Mar 31st, 2020

The Ontario government ordered closed all outdoor recreational facilities including sports fields and playgrounds in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The government made the announcement Monday night as video and photos surfaced of people congregating in parks despite warnings from the government officials and Toronto Mayor John Tory that people are putting themselves and others at risk.

The closure order comes as the province extended the emergency declaration until April 13.

“I made a commitment to be open and upfront about what we need to do as a province to beat this virus,” said Premier Doug Ford in a news release Monday. “Based on the best medical advice available, we are taking further steps today to protect the health and safety of all Ontarians by closing outdoor recreational amenities, like sports fields and playgrounds, and extending our emergency orders to save lives.”

The government said the closure order covers the following facilities, both public and private:

  • playgrounds and sports fields,
  • basketball and tennis courts,
  • off-leash dog parks,
  • beaches and picnic areas
  • skateboard and BMX parks
  • outdoor community gardens
  • park shelters
  • outdoor exercise equipment
  • condo parks and gardens
  • other outdoor recreational amenities

 

“Green spaces in parks, trails, ravines and conservation areas that aren’t otherwise closed would remain open for walkthrough access, but individuals must maintain the safe physical distance of at least two metres apart from others,” a government news release said. “Ontario’s provincial parks and conservation reserves remain closed.”

 

Toronto, Peel public school students will be back in the virtual classroom April 6

SPENCER GALLICHAN-LOWE | posted Tuesday, Mar 31st, 2020

Two Greater Toronto Area school boards said they plan to start teacher-led online education next week following the closure of Ontario schools because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and Peel District School Board (PDSB) said Monday they are prepping their staff and getting equipment ready for online learning starting on April 6.

John Malloy, TDSB director of education said the board is contacting families to determine what their children will need to learn online. He said they want to make sure students have a computer or similar device, as well as have internet access.

Malloy said the board is still waiting on parametres from the Ministry of Education in terms of what a school ‘day’ will look like, as well as how assessments will be handled.

He added that students will learn from their own teacher and interaction will be optional to each instructor.

Peter Joshua, the PDSB’s director of education, said they are developing plans for online learning for all grades, including adult and continuing education.

“We are currently finalizing a plan, and I look forward to sharing it with staff, students and families by the end of this week,” he said in a news release. “Thank you for your ongoing patience as we work to create a comprehensive and equitable plan to ensure all learners’ needs are met.”

He said the plan will include supports for students with special education needs as well as English language learners.

Other key components include a plan to ensure equitable access to electronics and the internet, as well as mental health and community supports.

“We are working to ensure that our use of online learning environments will not widen the divide between privileged and underserved students and that alternate learning strategies will be available,” he said. “In addition, we’re working to ensure equity of access to technology.”

With files from 680 News’ Patrick Luciani and Asher Roth

Ontario to unveil added home learning for students as schools remain closed

CYNTHIA MULLIGAN | posted Monday, Mar 30th, 2020

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce will announce new measures this week to keep students learning while classes remain suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He will also announce another extension of school closures beyond the previously set return date of April 6, which only a few days ago Premier Doug Ford confirmed was “unrealistic” and not going to happen.

Whether school will be back at all before the end of June is still in question.

As the government prepares for a lengthy suspension of school there are many complex issues it is trying to resolve; should home learning be mandatory and count for marks?   What about students with special needs?  How can home learning be equitable for the estimated 100,000 students across the province who don’t have access to the internet at home?  The government is currently discussing these concerns with school boards, Ontario’s four teachers unions, and parent groups as well as the Minister’s Advisory Council on Special Education.

In a statement, Lecce said, “in partnership with school boards and educators, our aim is to ensure every child – irrespective of ability, geography or socio-economic circumstance – can learn safely while at home.”

He added he has been speaking with parents who have children with special education needs about the “heightened challenges” they face during the pandemic.

The government’s launched its “Learn at Home” website on March 20.

It is not mandatory and does not count for marks.

Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) president Harvey Bischof said he has been working with the government to try to find ways to enhance and extend the home learning tool.

“One of the things we’ve been emphasizing and we believe heard by the minister is there is a vast spectrum of ability and access during this time,” he said, adding that it complicates trying to put something together on the fly.

Bischof said it is critical to plan for when students finally go back to school so that they can catch up.

He warns that “despite our best efforts gaps are going to rise based on students’ access.”

Many university professors have set up online classes for their students. When asked if that was a possibility, Bischof said it is possible but what will be required are “multiple options” for learning so as many students as possible have access.

Yesterday Alberta announced it is redirecting approximately $128 million from school funding to its COVID-19 response while schools are closed, which is expected to lead to the layoffs of thousands of substitute teachers and education assistants.

A spokesperson for the education minister said Sunday there are no plans to do that in Ontario and a memo has been sent to school boards advising them to honour collective agreements.

6 Toronto firefighters test positive for coronavirus

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Mar 30th, 2020

Toronto’s firefighter association said on Saturday six firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past two weeks.

Toronto Fire Services was not able to say how many firefighters are in isolation as a result of the positive tests.

Frank Ramagnano, president of the Toronto Professional Fire Fighters’ Association, said physical distancing has been hard on the job, so the firefighters have been relying on personal protective equipment to guard against the virus.

“But we have to be very careful about how we use that PPE, it’s in short supply,” he said, noting that members of the public should keep their distance from firefighters during non-emergency calls.

“If you maintain your distance, firefighters don’t have to wear PPE for every call.”

In addition to the six firefighters who were sickened, Ramagnano said more than 200 were off the job and in self-isolation.

A spokesman for the fire service says the outbreak has not affected operations.

Oakville firefighter tests positive for coronavirus

An Oakville firefighter has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus as well, the Oakville Professional Firefighters Association reported Sunday.

“Sad to report one of our firefighters has tested positive for COVID-19,” a tweet said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. We are working diligently to ensure the safety of our members as we continue to protect the public.”

Oakville fire chief Brian Durdin confirmed on Sunday that a firefighter is in self-isolation at the direction of the local health unit.

“Since the firefighter last worked a shift in Oakville on March 19, and did not display symptoms until March 23, they are primarily reaching out to direct contacts that took place after March 21, 2020,” Durdin said.

Durdin added that the fire hall and truck have been deep-cleaned.

“Internally we have had the fire hall and truck where the staff member last worked prior to the onset of symptoms deep cleaned as an extra precaution,” he said. “The affected staff member’s crew will continue to self-monitor as per protocols recommend by the Halton Health Unit.”

The fire department has also implemented a mandatory self-screening protocol.  Durdin said firefighters must screen themselves prior to going to work and halfway through their shift.

Ontario confirms 211 new coronavirus cases including 2 new deaths

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Mar 30th, 2020

Ontario has recorded 211 new confirmed cases of coronavirus, raising the total number of cases in the province to 1,355.

It marks the first time that the number of new cases has surpassed 200 since reporting began.

There have also been two additional deaths, raising the toll to 21.

The government reported late Sunday the two deaths were in the Simcoe-Muskoka District Public Health Unit and the Renfrew County and District Public Health Unit areas.

The province continues to see a decrease in the number of cases currently under investigation. Currently, there are 7,203 people awaiting test results, down almost 3,000 from Friday’s total.

The province has completed just over 49,000 tests, an increase of almost 8,000 additional tests since Friday. The number of resolved cases remains at eight.

Canada’s chief public health officer Theresa Tam says 205,000 tests for COVID-19 have been conducted in the country, and about three per cent of them have been positive.

She also says the number of people with the disease requiring hospitalization remains around six per cent, with two per cent in critical care and one per cent of cases fatal.

Tam also corrected a statement she made Saturday, saying that 12 per cent of people hospitalized are aged 40 and under. She had previously stated that number was 30 per cent

Tam says even with the lower number, “this statistic shows that younger age groups are also experiencing illness severe enough to require hospitalization.”

Crucial details of Ottawa’s proposed wage subsidy program expected Monday

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Mar 30th, 2020

Businesses and employees across Canada reeling from the COVID-19 crisis are expected to hear more about Ottawa’s proposed wage subsidy program on Monday.

When the federal government announced on Friday that it was boosting the subsidy to 75 per cent from the original 10 per cent, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he hoped the details would be hammered out by Monday.

The unprecedented measures being taken to try to slow the spread of the new coronavirus have severely impacted the national economy resulting in staggering job losses.

The government has responded, so far, by rolling out a bailout package totalling more than $200 billion. However, in a letter to the prime minister on Sunday NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh urged further action to ensure that people who have lost their jobs don’t also lose their homes when rent and mortgage payments come due on Apr. 1.

Another 665 COVID-19 cases were reported in Canada Sunday, pushing the national total to 6,320, including 66 deaths and 485 cases resolved.

And while government officials in Quebec and B.C. have said there are indications social distancing efforts may be paying off in slowing the rampant march of the virus, Canada’s chief public health officer says it’s still too early to make that call. On Sunday Dr. Theresa Tam said this week will be “very, very important” for her in terms of looking at those trends. But in the meantime, she again urged Canadians to continue to physically distance themselves from others.

Man shot near Warden and Danforth

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Mar 27th, 2020

A man has been rushed to hospital after a shooting in Scarborough.

Police were called to the area of Warden Avenue and Cataraqui Crescent, near Danforth Road just after 11 p.m. for reports of gunshots.

The victim was found at the scene suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. He was taken to hospital with serious injuries.

There has been no suspect information released at this time.

U.S. cases now most in world, capital sees more infections

YANAN WANG, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Friday, Mar 27th, 2020

The United States’ caseload of coronavirus infections surged to the most in the world and its capital reported more infections, as Italy shut most of its industry and masses of Indian day labourers received food rations after a lockdown put them out of work.

Increases in the number of cases have been expected as testing becomes more available. The U.S. passed China with more than 85,000 cases, and Italy also exceeded 80,000, the three countries together accounting for almost half of the world’s infections from the new virus.

Most of China’s patients have recovered, while places where the virus arrived later are now dealing with overwhelmed hospitals and supply shortages and are rushing to convert public spaces for treating the sick.

Washington, D.C., confirmed 36 new cases Thursday, raising its total to 267. The district is under a state of emergency, its major attractions like the Smithsonian museums and National Zoo closed and White House and Capitol tours cancelled. Police have blocked off streets, bridges and traffic circles to prevent crowds coming to see Washington’s blooming cherry blossom trees.

The stay-home order for India’s 1.3 billion people threw out of work the backbone of the nation’s economy — rickshaw drivers, fruit peddlers, cleaners and others who buy food from whatever they can earn in a day. The government announced a $22 billion stimulus to deliver monthly rations to 800 million people.

In some parts of India, people got rice rations or bank deposits from local authorities, and aid groups were working to expand their reach. The nation’s vital and massive train system was also halted, and jobless workers are now attempting to walk hundreds of miles to their home villages from India’s major cities.

Deaths from COVID-19 have surpassed 24,000, more than a third of them in Italy, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. The U.S. had about 1,300 deaths, almost a quarter of them in New York City, where hospitals are overwhelmed.

In China, where the virus was first believed to have jumped from wild animals to humans, the National Health Commission on Friday reported 55 new cases, including 54 it said were imported infections in recent arrivals from overseas. Once again, there were no new cases reported in Wuhan, the provincial capital where the coronavirus emerged in December. China is barring most foreigners from entering as it tries to curb imported cases.

The economic damage of the pandemic was growing. Italy shut down most of its industry, and a record-shattering 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits in a single week.

Companies in Europe are laying off workers at the fastest pace since 2009, according to surveys of business managers. And the U.S. is bleeding jobs as well: The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits last week was nearly five times the old record, set in 1982.

Dann Dykas, 37, of Portland, Oregon, was laid off from his job helping design and set up displays for trade shows.

“Everything is so surreal,” he said. “I can’t even get an interview for another job, and we now have to worry more about being careful and taking care of ourselves.”

Wall Street rallied for the third straight day after an unprecedented $2.2 trillion economic rescue package to help businesses, hospitals and ordinary Americans pull through the crisis won passage in the Senate. The rescue plan, which is expected to be voted on in the House on Friday, would dispense checks of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child.

Elsewhere around the world, South Africa, with the most industrialized economy in Africa, began a three-week lockdown Friday. The country is already in recession, with an unemployment rate of 29%.

And Britain unveiled another relief effort, this time aimed at the gig economy, many of whose workers are facing financial ruin. The government will give the self-employed grants equal to 80% of their average profits, up to 2,500 pounds ($2,975) per month.

The outbreak has put huge pressure on foreign students, especially those at universities in North America and Europe.

Zoey Wang recently returned home to the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu after her in-person classes and exams at the University of Toronto in Canada were cancelled. Her parents’ desire to have her home and the possibility of high medical costs if she became sick persuaded her to make the arduous return trip, she said.

Some on Chinese social media have attacked returning students for bringing “poison” into the country after its months-long fight to contain the virus, but Wang said that was unfair.

“It’s not like everyone is deliberately returning because they were infected,” Wang said. “People should remember that when the outbreak happened in China, international students were sending masks and other items.”

Wang flew from Toronto to Taipei, Taiwan, then from Taipei to Chengdu. The Chengdu leg was packed; everyone wore masks, most people donned goggles and gloves, and a few were garbed in full-body protective suits.

When she arrived in Chengdu, she was required to take a COVID-19 test and stay in a hotel for two nights until her results came back negative. Only then was she allowed to return to her own home for quarantine. Every day, a government neighbourhood committee worker comes to take her temperature.

In other developments:

–New York state’s death toll jumped by 100 in one day, pushing the number to 385. Gov. Andrew Cuomo added that the number will increase as critically ill patients who have been on ventilators for several days succumb. “That is a situation where people just deteriorate over time,” Cuomo said.

–Saudi Arabia is locking down the capital, Riyadh, and Islam’s two holiest cities, Mecca and Medina, in addition to a nationwide curfew. In the United Arab Emirates, authorities announced an overnight weekend lockdown and used drones to tell people to stay home.

–The leaders of the Group of 20 major industrialized nations met in a video summit and vowed to work together to confront the crisis but made no specific commitments.

–In Brazil, the country’s governors are defying President Jair Bolsonaro over his call to reopen schools and businesses, dismissing his argument that the “cure” of widespread shutdowns is worse than the disease. As of Thursday, the country had more than 2,500 cases and 59 deaths.

–A U.S. soldier stationed at a camp near Seoul is the second case among U.S. service members in South Korea.

–Singapore has begun penalizing people who refuse to adhere to social distancing in the latest bid to curb the virus. Anyone not maintaining a distance of 1 metre (3.3 feet) from another person in a public place such as a shopping centre or shopping mall can be jailed up to six months or fined up to Singapore dollars 10,000 ($7,000) or both.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

Of the world’s 532,000 confirmed cases, more than 122,000 people have recovered, according to the Johns Hopkins tally.

Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.

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