‘Please, please observe health measures’, Dr. Tam urges amidst ‘worrisome’ upward trend of COVID-19 cases

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As cases of COVID-19 continue to spread around the world, Canadians seem to be increasingly concerned about their health and safety

Currently, there are more than 112,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in Canada and nearly 8,800 deaths.

Check back for the latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak in Canada.

For a full archive of the first month of the pandemic, please check our archive of events.

July 24

2:30 p.m.: ‘Please, please observe the public health measures’

Canada’s top health officials are pleading for the country to follow the public health measures in place to contain COVID-19 spread.

Minister of Health Patty Hajdu said Canadians have “come so far” over the past months and people need to continue to work to protect each other from the virus in “our new normal.”

“We know that this virus likes close talkers, crowded spaces and contained areas,” she said. “An inside party with lots of people is a setting that poses more risk.”

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said the “upward trend” in daily case counts is “worrisome.”

“We know that we have the means to keep COVID-19 under control but this is by no means a sure thing,” she said. “I must urge all Canadians, particularly younger adults, to not give into COVID-19 fatigue.

Related to younger Canadians in particular, Dr. Tam said messaging to this age group needs to evolve.

“The younger age group needs different messaging, I think better engagement with them through different channels,” she said. “Please, please observe the public health measures.” 

The seven day rolling average in Canada is 487 cases reported daily. People between the ages of 20 and 39 account for the highest incident rates over the past two weeks.

When asked about particular concerns related to bar and restaurant settings, Dr. Tam said this is a topic of “ongoing monitoring” and discussion among the top doctors in each province and territory. She stressed it is particularly difficult for public health if people are engaging with a lot of different contacts but local health authorities will be adapting their approach in these settings, based on their independent experiences.

July 23

5:30 p.m.: COVID-19 questions of the day

6:30 p.m.: ‘We cannot say whether a highly effective vaccine will be developed in a few months, or years, or even ever’

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, suggested at a press conference on Thursday that the recent rise in COVID-19 cases is impacting the province’s healthcare capacity.

“Our current acute care utilization is approaching the highest number of admissions on any single day that we have had, which was a peak of 113 overall hospital admissions on Apr. 30,” Dr. Hinshaw said, adding that the province’s peak in ICU admissions on May 1 with 23 cases.

A total of 114 COVID-19 cases were confirmed yesterday. There are 106 people in Alberta hospitals, 21 in intensive care and the province is reporting two more deaths.

“This needs to be a wake up call,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “I am very concerned by these numbers.”

On Jul. 9 there were 590 active cases in the province, now there are nearly 1,300. Two weeks ago, only seven Albertans were in the ICU.

“I believe the recent increase in numbers is in part reflective of the fact that fatigue has set in,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “After several months of not catching the virus, it is easy to say that you feel fine so why wash your hands, why stay two-metres apart in public, why avoid sharing food at a barbecue.”

“We are all still at risk of catching the infection and passing the virus to others.”

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health stressed that there is emerging evidence of long-term outcomes of COVID-19, particularly for those with more severe illness. This includes a higher risk of having diabetes and lung damage.

“This is not something to take lightly,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “The guidance we have put in place is the manual for how to live with COVID-19 for at least the rest of this year and likely beyond.”

She added that although “exciting progress” has been made on a vaccine, this is likely not a solution that will be available anytime soon.

“We cannot say whether a highly effective vaccine will be developed in a few months, or years, or even ever,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “Even if there is one, there is no way to know how quickly we will be able to vaccinate Albertans.”

4:30 p.m.: New order to come for rentals in British Columbia

At a press conference on Thursday Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, said she is working to introduce an order that would add limits to the number of guests and visitors allowed at rental properties, including houseboats, rooms, Airbnbs and houses.

This order would apply across the province and the onus is on the owner, operators to ensure the rules are followed. The provincial health officer said the exact limits are being worked out but the specifics should be revealed in the next day.

Dr. Henry said the province has seen many exposure events in the Interior Health region, primarily central and south Okanagan.

“A numbers of events happened over the past couple of weeks that have led to a surge in cases in those areas, some of whom are people who have returned to other parts of British Columbia,” she said. “This virus can be a stealth virus, we have seen it move around our province, sometimes silently, with far reaching impacts and serious consequences.”

“Being around crowds of people, especially people you don’t know, puts you and your family and your friends at risk. For you and those you care for to stay safe, we need you to keep your groups small.”

B.C.’s provincial health officer highlighted that restaurants are restricted to up to six people per group and people in the province can use that number as guidance for other social activities.

Despite the increase in exposure events, Dr. Henry said she does not intend to make masks mandatory at all indoor public spaces.

“It is not my expectation that we will require mandatory masking in indoor spaces,” she said. “It is an additional layer on top of the other layers that we use to keep each other safe, and it is the least effective of the many layers that we have.”

Dr. Henry added that if community spread continues to rise, this would be “an option.”

3:50 p.m.: Ontario’s top doctor says recent outbreaks ‘should have been prevented’

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said the trend in COVID-19 cases continues to be down in the province but people need to continue to follow the public health measures in place.

“We still have outbreaks and some of those could have been prevented, should have been prevented, and we still have to work at that,” Dr. Williams said. “Your casualness can put other things at risk and we need you to stay the task.”

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health highlighted that Toronto accounted for 24 on Thursday, with 23 cases in Windsor-Essex, 15 in Peel, 14 in Ottawa and 10 in Niagara.

The local health unit in Ottawa initially mentioned gatherings of young people as a core driver of new cases, but Dr. Williams indicated there have also been people over 50 who are not adhering to the public health rules and are having social gatherings.

He added that for schools to be able to successfully reopen in the fall, community transmission of COVID-19 needs to stay low.

3:00 p.m.: ‘Come on, you’re better than that’

British Columbia Premier John Horgan had stern words for people in the province who have been participating in larger gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“After observing footage from Kelowna, after observing footage of a drum circle in the Lower Mainland, I have to say to British Columbians come on, you’re better than that,” Horgan said. “We need bigger spaces and fewer faces, we need to make sure that we’re respecting not just our own space but other people’s space.”

“The challenge ahead of us is enormous, COVID-19 is still very much in our community and we have a collective responsibility to do what we can to defeat it.”

For days Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, has expressed concerns about gathering in the province, now with about a thousand people self-isolating as a direct result of the recent community exposures in Kelowna.

“Be responsible, do your best to stay away from other people,” Horgan said. “We did anticipate an increase in case load because there’s an increase in interactions with people, but that doesn’t mean that you can be reckless.”

“It’s not the time to make new friends, it’s a time to reinforce the relationships you do have.”

Despite the recent increase in new COVID-19 cases in the province, the premier does not believe B.C. started loosening restrictions too soon, saying that when the province moved to Phase 3 daily case counts were so low B.C. was “the envy of Canada.”

Horgan added that from the beginning, mobility rights within Canada were fundamental and people are able to come to the province from other regions of Canada

“They needed to do so mindful that they were coming to someone else’s neighbourhood, someone else’s community, and they should behave as they would expect others to behave when they came to their neighbourhood, and to their community,” the premier said.

2:10 p.m.: Details on Ontario’s school plan to come next week

Ontario’s Minister of Education Stephen Lecce teased that the province will share information on the fall school year next week.

He indicated the ministry is “finalizing” plans with provincial health officials.

At a press conference in Brampton on Thursday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the government’s goal is to have children back in class five days a week in September.

These comments came as the provincial government announced an investment of over $500 million to build 30 new schools and make additions to 15 existing facilities across the province.

The premier went on to comment on municipalities, including Toronto, wanting additional measures in place around public spaces like restaurants and bars.

“Each regional chief medical officer has that authority to put those guidelines in and I encourage them to do it,” he said, stressing that what works for the more urban areas may not be the best scenario for more rural, northern communities.

July 22

7:58 p.m.: COVID-19 questions of the day

7:00 p.m.: Nearly 1,000 B.C. residents self-isolating after exposure event in Kelowna

British Columbia health officials announced additional restrictions are being put in place at bars and nightclubs in the province.

All patrons must now be seated at designated seats, no self-service liquor will be permitted, dance floors must be shut down, and additional measures must be put in place to reduce lineups and gatherings.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, said there are now more than 70 cases of COVID-19 related to the community exposures in and around the Kelowna area.

She added that as a direct result of the recent community exposures in Kelowna, there are now close to a thousand British Columbians who are self-isolating at home because they have been exposed to somebody who has been positive for this virus.

The provincial health officer stressed the importance of people keeping their “bubble” of close contacts small.

“What we’re seeing in the Okanagan, and this is why interior health is looking at some more restrictions in numbers of people that gather, is that people were having 20 or 30 contacts and that makes it much more challenges for us to find people in a timely way,” Dr. Henry said. “Most people will start to get sick at day five, day seven, so we want to find everybody before that period of time, so that they don’t have the opportunity to pass it on.”

She said people in B.C. “need to take a step back” and look at the rules that need to be followed to bend the curve back down.

“Being outside is not enough, we know that it can be transmitted when you’re having close conversations, talking, laughing, with large numbers of people, even if it is outside,” Dr. Henry said.

3:00 p.m.: Ontario Legislature adjourns after Ford boots MPP from caucus

The Ontario Legislature has adjourned after passing 18 pieces of legislation, including emergency measures to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In the last five months, working through an unprecedented global public health crisis, our government adapted and innovated to ensure that all MPPs could be fully engaged in legislative business,” Paul Calandra, Government House Leader, said in a statement.

This comes after Cambridge MPP Belinda Karahalios was booted from caucus after voting against Bill 195, which would allow Ontario’s Conservative government to amend or extend emergency orders a month at a time for up to two years, without consent from the legislature.

“You need to vote on an important piece of legislation like this,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said at a press conference on Wednesday. “I was with her for two days, not a word was mentioned to me, which I find ironic but that’s [neither] here nor there, she’s a good person.”

At a press conference on Wednesday, Ford said also said he is aware that parents want to know what is happening with schools in September, stressing that he wants to see students back in class, particularly younger children.

He said one augmentation for September may be students learning outside, as much as possible and weather permitting.

12:30 p.m.: Nova Scotia students will return to classrooms on Sept. 8

The Nova Scotia government has announced students will return to in-class learning on Sept. 8.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Zach Churchill, Nova Scotia’s Minister of Education and Childhood Development, said school classrooms will be realigned to provide additional spacing for desks, students and staff will be asked to self-screen for any COVID-19 symptoms and masks will be mandatory in common areas of high schools.

Younger students will “bubble” with classmates, including lunch time and recess. There will be no access to lockers in any school.

Parents will be asked to drop-off and pick-up students at designated outside areas. Anyone who feels ill throughout the school day will be immediately isolated and sent home.

“Medical and health experts tell us that children need school for their emotional, social, physical and mental wellbeing, and we also heard that from parents and students themselves,” Churchill said. “Our job in the education system is to make that experience happen in the safest manner possible.”

The minister indicated that if COVID-19 becomes a significant risk in a particular areas of the province, it will respond to the situation at a local level without disrupting the rest of Nova Scotia school. This could including moving to a blended model with pre-primary to Grade 8 having reduced classes, and Grade 9 to Grade 12 students doing “much of their learning from home.”

“Our current epidemiology shows that virus activity remains very low in the province,” Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health said. “I’m fully confident that the plan we have in place allows us to have children back in school, the optimum place for their learning, while we have appropriate COVID safety measures in place.”

“We also have to understand that there is certainly a possibility that we will see cases of COVID in school-aged people in Nova Scotia. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the transmission was in school, it might be…it doesn’t mean that our plan was wrong, it doesn’t mean that we have. to rethink everything.”

Dr. Strang said he is comfortable, with the other measures in place, that schools can operate without having a “strict commitment” to the two-metre physical distancing rule but said it might be a measure that is “strengthened” if COVID-19 cases begin to be prevalent in school settings.

July 21

7:15 p.m.: ‘A few missteps can quickly result is a significant resurgence’

A joint written statement from Adrian Dix, British Columbia’s Minister of Health, and Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, highlighted that there are “several” community exposure events.

“As we have seen in many other places, a few missteps can quickly result is a significant resurgence in new cases of COVID-19,” the statement reads. “Here in B.C., our curve is trending upward, and we need to bend our curve back down to where it belongs.

They indicated a number of new cases are a result of community transmission from “an increase in social interactions.”

“We can stop transmission by seeing fewer people, only spending time with people we know, keeping a safe distance from others and using a mask when that is difficult,” Minister Dix and Dr. Henry said in the statement. “Let’s continue to follow these rules for safe social interactions.”

Some restaurants, wineries and recreational facilities in the Okanagan and Lower Mainland region of B.C. have been notified of a potential exposure with some employees, including employees who have been confirmed positive for COVID-19.

6:30 p.m.: Alberta to resume in-school learning in September

The Alberta government announced K-12 students, more than 750,000 students, will return to school in September

“This does not mean that there will be no cases in schools, it means, rather, that we have calculated the relative risks of reopening against the risks of continued closures,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said at a press conference on Tuesday.

This will be done under scenario 1, characterized as “near-normal operations” or in-class learning with enhanced health and safety measures.

Some of these measures that will be in place include physical distancing, grouping students in cohorts to minimize infection spread, frequent hand washing with hand sanitizer at school entrances and classrooms, a strict stay-at-home policy when students and staff are sick, restrictions to shared equipment and new drop-off/pick-up procedures to limit contact between households.

Students and staff may also wear a mask if they choose to do so.

Kenney stressed that protocols may have to be changed and adapted over time, and parents will not be “forced” to send their children to school.

When asked why this announcement is coming as Alberta sees an increase in new COVID-19 cases, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health, stressed the current situation now is not necessarily an indication of what will happen in the months to come. She added that that not being in school can negatively impact children’s overall mental, emotional and physical health, as well.

“We’ve heard very clearly from parents and from the system that they want clarity as soon as possible as to what scenario we will be in,” Alberta’s Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange said. “This allows parents to make their plans for the upcoming school year.”

Dr. Hinshaw went on to say if a COVID-19 case is identified at a school, public health officials will work to ensure follow-up testing is conducted and additional health measures are put in place, including quarantining of close contacts.

She added that the best way to start the 2021-2022 school year is to have a low number of COVID-19 cases in the community.

“Our health system is watching the situation closely, but I want to be clear: We all have a role to play in reducing the rise in cases that we are seeing,” Dr. Hinshaw said.

“It looks like some folks are no longer observing the public health guidelines,” Premier Kenney said. “Whatever the reasons, the results are troubling.”

“Today I plead with Albertans not to give up on the progress that we’ve made…Let me be blunt, if you think you can socialize with large groups of people in close quarters, knock it off. If you’re young and healthy, remember you can still carry and transmit the virus that ends up killing someone who is old and vulnerable.” 

5:20 p.m.: Expansion of Atlantic bubble not coming in the near future

Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King said while discussions continue about opening up the Atlantic bubble to other part of Canada, it is not a priority for the province at this point.

“While I, like all Islanders, look forward to a time when our lives can return to some kind or normal and where our borders can be open to all of our visitors, we recognize that we need to remain vigilant as we learn to live with COVID-19,” King said. “For the time being we’ll maintain the status quo and measure any future decisions based on the best information and data, in coordination with the chief public health office.”

He added that the province is currently having conversations about how to allow more visitations at long-term care facilities and possible reunification of families within Canada.

Dr. Heather Morrison, the chief public health officer of P.E.I., stressed that it continues to be critically important for people in the province to keep their number of close contacts small, echoing comments from other Canadians health officials that the recent increase in new cases across Canada is “concerning.”

“If any one of us was asked to identity how many contacts we had in the last few days, if we were told we were positive with COVID, how many people would that impact? How many families would that impact?” Dr. Morrison said.

P.E.I. man arrested for for not self-isolating

It was also revealed on Tuesday that a man who tested positive for COVID-19 is now facing criminal charges after allegedly not self-isolating.

The 22-year-old was sent to the Rodd Brudenell River Resort last week to isolate and Kings District RCMP responded to reports from resort staff on Friday that he was not following the rules.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Dr. Morrison confirmed there is no additional risk to any patrons or staff at the resort.

2:15 p.m.: Two new long-term care homes being built in Mississauga

The Ontario government announced the new Accelerated Build Pilot Program, which will begin with the construction of two news long-term care homes in Mississauga.

The new facilities will be built in partnership with Trillium Health Partners and Infrastructure Ontario, adding up to 640 new long-term care beds by 2021.

“Our government won’t accept the status quo in long-term care,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said in a statement. “We made a commitment to seniors and their families to improve the quality of Ontario’s long-term care homes, and we intend to follow through.”

“Not only have we recently announced a plan to get shovels in the ground faster on over 120 long-term care projects in our pipeline, we are also exploring innovative partnerships to get more beds built sooner across the province starting with these two pilot projects in Mississauga.”

This new program follows widespread COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care facilities across the province, accounting for most of the virus-related deaths in Ontario.

1:20 p.m.: One of Canada’s top doctors reminds the public that ‘success is fragile’

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, indicated the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases across Canada is “concerning” and all people across the country have a role to play to keep the virus under control.

Dr. Njoo said Canada was averaging about 300 cases per day, on a seven-day rolling average, more recently increasing to about 350 cases a day. Currently, Canada is at an average of about 460 daily cases for the last four days or so.

“It seems that the vast majority, or the increase in proportion of cases, is among what we call young adults,” he said. “More recently it’s been about 55 per cent and that is concerning.”

Dr. Njoo said there are a number of factors that may contribute to this recent spike in new COVID-19 cases. One is fatigue from spending more time inside and having to follow public health rules.

For young people in particular, there is also the “invincibility factor,” which is related to younger people thinking they can “get away with anything.”

“By in large, even though their risk of actually being exposed to COVID-19 is the same any anyone else, the fact is that [they] appear to have less of a probably of having serious health consequences, compared to let’s say older age groups and also those with other underlying medical conditions,” Dr. Njoo said.

He added that another concern is that many younger people have very mild symptoms or are asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19.

“That’s where I think the challenge is because even if they have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic, the fact of the matter is that they’re part of our society,” he said.

Canada’s deputy chief public health officer did indicate that as more businesses resume operations, officials would “expect” to see “clusters of cases” but the decision to shut down services should be based on the COVID-19 situation at a local level.

“We need to be mindful [that] success is fragile, that it only takes a few sparks, people letting go and not keeping their foot on the gas…that we could backslide and unfortunately return to a situation as we had several months ago,” Dr. Njoo said.

Community transmission significant indicator of in-person schooling likelihood

Canada’s deputy chief public health officer was also asked about what would have to be considered from a public health perspective to reopen schools in the fall.

Dr. Njoo indicated that overall COVID-19 transmission in the community will be important.

“If the virus circulating level is quite low, then certainly the approach, the strategy in terms of reopening schools, I think, would be much different compared to if there was widespread transmission,” he said.

Dr. Njoo added that research has shown that very young children don’t tend to get particularly ill from COVID-19 but also don’t seem to transmit the virus to adults as easily. He did stress that evidence shows that older children, once they reach the age of about 10 years old, transmit the virus at a level that is closer to young adults.

July 20

7:15 p.m.: B.C. officials concerned about an ‘upward bend’ in its COVID-19 curve

BC Ministry of Health
BC Ministry of Health

Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s provincial health officer, said she has concerns about a rise in newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in the province. When asked where on a scale from 0 to 100 she is in terms of her level of concern, Dr. Henry she is at 102.

“We’re starting to see an upward bend of our curve,” B.C.’s provincial health officer said. “What this shows is that we do have a possibility of having explosive growth in our outbreak here in B.C. if we’re not careful in how we progress over the summer.”

An example of these exposure events includes parties in Kelowna. Dr. Henry said many of these individuals who gathered in the region have go back to where they live, in other parts of the province and beyond, and there will be more confirmed cases from this group “in the next couple of weeks.”

“What we can do is stop those people from exposing anybody else and that’s where we are right now,” she said.

BC Ministry of Health
BC Ministry of Health

The latest modelling projections from provincial health officials show these increasing case numbers can lead to great uncertainly over the summer, emphasizing that people in the province need to make sure they are following public health measures, particularly keeping the number of close contacts small.

“One thing that we have learned is that we can’t predict what’s going to happen and we are reacting to what has happened over the two weeks, three weeks, particularly since that July 1st week,” Dr. Henry said.

BC Ministry of Health
BC Ministry of Health

The reproductive number in the province has now risen above one, which the provincial health officer said is a place where there could be rapid transmission of COVID-19.

BC Ministry of Health
BC Ministry of Health

Dr. Henry said the province is approximately at a rate of 65 to 75 per cent of pre-COVID contacts, also indicating that listening to advice is important to prevent a rebound in transmission.

“This is concerning but it is not foregone that we will have a rapid rebound,” she said. “It is something that we can make a difference in if we we pay attention now.”

BC Ministry of Health
BC Ministry of Health

The province undertook a survey of people from all over B.C., with more than 394,300 participants, to get a sense of the population’s experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Once the survey was completed, the data was weighted to make it more representative of the B.C. population.

BC Ministry of Health
BC Ministry of Health

The survey found that four in five respondents approved of the COVID-19 response from public health, while fewer young adults felt the response was appropriate.

BC Ministry of Health
BC Ministry of Health

It also found that many people in B.C. faced a number of challenges associated with COVID-19. Most notably, impacts on mental health, concern for family members, impacts on work, difficulties with finances and accessing healthcare.

Of the respondents, young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 reported a greater mental health and economic burden during the pandemic, as did families with children.

“We’re on an edge that might go up but is in our hands to control,” Dr. Henry said. “If we increase our social interaction too much without doing it safely, we do risk a rebound that will impact us all.” 

6:00 p.m.: Manitoba bidding to become a CFL hub city

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced the province is launching an $8 million #RestartMB Event Attraction Strategy, in an effort to have Winnipeg and rural locations host large-scale meetings, conventions and events.

The province is also bidding for Winnipeg to be a CFL hub city.

“Manitoba is leading in recovery with a safe plan to restart our economy, which is why we are ready to make another important investment that supports the restart of our economy and invite the CFL to safely play its shortened 2020 season in Winnipeg,” Pallister said in a statement. “We are excited to work with Travel Manitoba and key economic stakeholders to develop our #RestartMB Event Attraction Strategy that will benefit the entire provincial economy, but in particular, the hardest-hit sectors of tourism and hospitality, namely restaurants and hotels.”

Should Winnipeg become a CFL hub city, the province is committing $2.5 million for expenses like food and accommodations, practice field rentals, ground transportation and event-specific expenses in Manitoba.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, indicated any CFL participants would be expected to follow public health rules, to be reviewed by local health authorities.

Manitoba officials are also advising the public about an outbreak of COVID-19 cases at Hutterite colonies, the majority linked to a gathering in Alberta.

There are also international travel-related COVID-19 cases in the province. One individual was a passenger on Asiana flight OZ 0704 from Manila, Philippines to Seoul, South Korea on July 7, Air Canada AC 0064 Seoul to Vancouver on July 8 (rows 26 to 32) and Air Canada AC 0296 Vancouver to Winnipeg on July 8 (rows 21 to 27). 

4:00 p.m.: Ontario’s top doctors calls for people in the province to prevent community spread of COVID-19

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, indicated it is critically important for people to continue to work to keep community transmission of COVID-19 down, especially as the province works to open schools in the fall.

“We know that if the community transmission is very low, the risk to schools is also low,” Dr. Williams said. “This is the forward investment rather than saying we’ve opened this up and let’s throw caution to the wind, that is not the message.”

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health also echoed premier Ford’s statement that different local health units are able to implement additional measures as they head into Stage 3, including Toronto and John Tory’s of list recommendations for food and drink establishments.

“I thought there were some good options in there,” Dr. Williams said. “I think those are aspects…that some municipalities, if they have a lot of dense, heavily used bar-type facilities, could put some limitations in there to decrease the risk-taking behaviour, if you may, of the patrons who might utilize that.” 

‘It’s easy for people to forget that we’re still in a pandemic’

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, said Ottawa’s public health unit has specifically identified an increase in cases in young people, with plans to increase case management staff, more mobile testing outreach and potential bylaw changes for gatherings.

“I think we have seen an increase in cases in young people in general,” Dr. Yaffe said. “The experience we’re seeing in other jurisdictions is young people going out to bars or private gatherings, so it wouldn’t be unlikely that it’s happening across other parts of Ontario.”

“What we’re trying to say is, it’s easy for people to forget that we’re still in a pandemic and to go back to what they used to do. The disease is still around, it will transmit and it may not be those young people who are severely affected but it could be people around them.”

2:40 p.m.: Ontario Place to hold summer events

The Ontario government is providing $2 million to support festivals and events at Ontario Place this summer.

“Ontario’s heritage, sport, tourism and culture industries were hit first, the hardest, and will take the longest to recover from COVID-19,” Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries said in a statement. “As we gradually reopen the province, Ontario Place offers exciting opportunities to safely come together to enjoy arts and culture experiences, while supporting the province’s economic recovery.”

The events at Ontario Place this summer includes:

  • Lavazza Drive-In Film Festival will feature the latest international films from different countries including France, Spain, China, Russia, the US, the UK, Brazil, India and Canada, with a special focus on Italy. It will run from July 20-31.

  • Toronto Shines will present the best in live entertainment, comedy and current and classic films. It is running now through October.

  • DriveInTO, a new initiative launched by the City of Toronto, will offer free drive-in film screenings in August with programming by Hot Docs, imagineNATIVE and TIFF.

  • Toronto Undergraduate Jazz Festival, a not for profit organization that creates opportunities for young jazz artists to showcase their talent, will present a virtual jazz festival in the Trillium Park on September 5-6.

  • Toronto International Film Festival will run from September 10-19, with 50 new feature films, five programmes of short films, as well as interactive talks, film cast reunions, and Q&As with cast and filmmakers tailored to fit the moment with physical screenings, digital screenings, and at drive-ins, including Ontario Place.

1:40 p.m.: More regions of Ontario move into Stage 3

The Ontario government announced seven additional regions can move into Stage 3 of reopening on Friday, Jul. 24. They are:

  • Durham Region Health Department

  • Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit

  • Halton Region Health Department

  • Hamilton Public Health Services

  • Lambton Health Unit

  • Niagara Region Public Health Department

  • York Region Public Health Services

The three areas absent from this list are Toronto, Peel and Windsor-Essex, which combined have accounted for a large percentage of new COVID-19 recently identified.

At a press conference on Monday, Minister of Health Christine Elliott said it is very important for people to follow the public health rules still present in Stage 3, including maintaining a close social circle of up to 10 people, physical distancing and practicing good hand hygiene. She added that having four weeks of data from the impact of Stage 2 will be a core part of moving the remaining regions to the next stage of reopening.

As a reminder, Stage 3 includes being able to congregate with 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors (with proper social distancing measures in place), as well as the reopening of personal grooming and restaurant dining.

‘Do the right thing’

As the number of younger people being infected with COVID-19 continues to rise, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said these individuals need to think about the health of their parents, grandparents and other family members when they go out.

“Do the right thing,” Ford said. “Don’t go to these parties if they’re there, it’s not worth it.”

“You may get through it but it’s going to be a different story for your parents and your relatives, and the loved ones that are part of your family.”

Elliott added that she is aware there is “COVID fatigue,” particularly among young people. 

“Please remember that as we’re opening up the economy it is more important than ever before to please follow the public health rules,” she said.

When asked about the safety of opening bars, Ford stressed that every region has the ability to implement additional measures for the opening of these spaces.

This comes after Toronto Mayor John Tory sent a letter to the Ontario premier to request six additional measures be implemented to prevent any future spread of COVID-19.

These requests include adding provisions that require patrons at food and drink establishments to be seated at all times (unless entering, exiting, going to the washroom or paying) and a request to limit capacity at these to ensure physical distancing can be maintained. 

11:00 a.m.: ‘Given the prime minister’s history, it’s not really that surprising’

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer called out Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for take a “personal day” when the House is set to reconvene, with discussions set to include the proposed extension of the emergency wage subsidy and a one-time $600 payment to Canadians with disabilities, in additional expected questions about the WE Charity scandal.

“He picked today to come back to debate this bill and also to participate in question period,” Scheer said. “Then he decided to take a personal day, well it’s completely unacceptable that he doesn’t show up for work on the day that he chose.”

“It’s an insult to Canadians who have very serious questions about the WE scandal and who still are suffering because of the gaps in Mr. Trudeau’s programs.”

The Conservative Leader indicated the proposed changes to the wage subsidy is “a complex web of rules and regulations that will trap businesses in paperwork and accounting fees.”

“This is further proof of the fact that Justin Trudeau has no plan to help Canadians get back on their feet or to restart our economy,” he said.

“We’ve highlighted ideas to make it simpler. You need a degree in mathematics to fully understand all the permutations and combinations that they’ve come up with. We need to get help out the door to businesses.”

Scheer also said he planned to ask the prime minister about the $900 million WE Charity scandal related to the student grant program. 

“He didn’t make a mistake, he made a choice to hand almost a billion dollars to a charity that has paid multiple members of his immediate family almost $300,000,” the Conservative Leader said. “This is the kind of scandal you would expect to hear in a corrupt country, half way across the globe, not in a G7 country like Canada.”

“Given the prime minister’s history, it’s not really that surprising.”

July 17

7:30 p.m.: COVID-19 questions of the day

7:20 p.m.: ‘Concerning’ new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s provincial health officer, spoke about recent COVID-19 cases discovered in the province. There are now 35 cases linked to exposure in Kelowna, which began around Canada Day, and Dr. Henry identified this as “one of the more concerning issues.”

“We recognize that there have been a number of events that have happened there and we need people to start thinking about how we can socialize safely over the coming we weeks,” she said.

B.C.’s provincial health officer also wants people to share the message to “make sure that we don’t let COVID steal our summer.”

“We need to play safe and stay safe,” she said. “We can have fun and we can do it in a way that is safe.”

A COVID-19 outbreak has also been declared at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, in a neonatal intensive care unit.

There has also been an exposure event at the Sandman Suites hotel in Vancouver, which occurred between Jul. 7 and Jul. 16. At a press conference on Friday Dr. Henry said anyone who may have been exposed is required to monitor for symptoms and limit contacts with others.

“More people getting sick, more outbreaks in hospitals, those are when we have to start stepping back on some of the opening up that we’re doing,” the provincial health officer said.

3:30 p.m.: Proposed changes to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy

Minister of Finance Bill Morneau announced proposed changes to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), including extending the program until Dec. 19.

This will also adjust the 30 per cent decline in revenue requirement to qualify for the program, opening it up to businesses with any amount of revenue loss. A top-up subsidy of up to an additional 25 per cent for employers that have been hardest hit by COVID-19.

‘I made a mistake’

The finance minister also commented on the WE Charity investigation related to the summer student grants contract, where his daughter works in an “administrative role.”

“I did not recuse myself from the deliberations…and in hindsight, I should have,” Morneau said. “I made a mistake.”

“I regret and I apologize sincerely for having made that mistake. I think it’s made our ability to deliver on this program more challenging.” 

He went on the stress that the recommendation to award the contract to WE came from the public service but said “multiple departments” worked together on how to delivery the program, calling it an “all hands on deck” moment.

“I absolutely can see that I should have recused myself, that there was a perception that was real and that I needed to deal with that,” Morneau said.

2:45 p.m.: ‘I believe that in a heartbeat’

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said at a press conference on Friday that he will reach out to Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister to get a briefing on reports that Russian hackers are stealing COVID-19-related intellectual property, including vaccine development.

“I believe that in a heartbeat,” Ford said. “Not only Russians, I think other countries are going after intellectual property.”

His comments came on the same day the province announced a “made-in-Ontario Intellectual Property Action Plan” to prioritizing IP generation, protection, and commercialization.

“Too often, the priceless intellectual property developed here in Ontario gets bought up by the big U.S. or international firms,” Ford said. “We want that intellectual property and its value to stay right here in Ontario.”

Hospital takes over Toronto area long-term care home

Ontario’s Ministry of Long-Term Care also announced Humber River Hospital will assume management of Villa Colombo in North York. The provincial government indicated the facility has not been able to contain COVID-19.

“I’m glad to hear Humber River…is going in there,” the premier said. “I won’t hesitate to get any hospital to take over long-term care homes to protect the most vulnerable people.”

2:00 p.m.: ‘Cause of concern’ as COVID-19 cases in Canada rise

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, indicated there is “some cause for concern” in Canada as daily COVID-19 case counts begin to rise nationally.

Over the past week, an average of 350 new cases per day have been identified, compared to a daily average of 300 earlier in the month. On Thursday, over 430 new COVID-19 cases were reported.

“This coincides with increasing reports of individuals contacting COVID-19 at parties, nightclubs and bars, as well as increasing rates of transmission among young Canadians in some jurisdictions across the country,” Dr. Njoo said at a press conference on Friday.

Canada’s deputy chief public health officer said part of this might be the “fatigue factor” as Canadians have been under various public health restrictions for many months. He went on to stress that although young Canadians, individuals under the age of 40, tend to not have the same rate of serious health consequences from COVID-19 as older individuals, they are still equally as susceptible to being infected and spreading the virus.

“I was young once and I can remember when I was younger I thought I was invincible, you can do anything, don’t worry about it, it will be ok,” Dr. Njoo said. “I would tell young people, including my own kids,…you need to also take some personal responsibility, it’s not only to protect your health but to protect all others in our society.”

Proposed financial support for Canadians with disabilities

Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability, said the federal government is moving forward with proposed legislation to make the previously announced one-time, tax-free payment of $600 available to approximately 1.7 million Canadians with disabilities.

The funds are meant to support these Canadians who have incurred additional expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Canadians with disabilities have a 60-day window of opportunity to apply after the bill receives Royal Assent, if they have not done so already.

“The delay in getting this money to Canadians with disability in this time of pandemic crisis has brought to light shortcomings and barriers within Government of Canada programs and service delivery for our citizen with disabilities, and these need to be addressed,” Qualtrough said.

July 16

7:00 p.m.: ‘Most of us do not have antibodies’

Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s provincial health officer, spoke about a recent report from University of British Columbia, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, LifeLabs and public health scientists on serology testing.

The report outlines that less than one per cent were positive for antibodies for COVID-19 and it is estimated that about eight times more residents of the province have been infected. That means about 16,000, 17,000 people may have had COVID-19 in the last six months.

“This tells us that we still have very low levels of this virus and we don’t yet know whether having these antibodies means that you’re protected, you’re immune from this virus if you get exposed to it again,” Dr. Henry said. “Most of us do not have antibodies to this virus…and we need to keep doing the things we’re doing to minimize the effects of this virus in our communities.”

14-day quarantine rule for travellers should remain

B.C.’s provincial health officer also commented Air Canada’s call for the government to ease the 14-day quarantine rule for some travellers coming to Canada.

“I absolutely do not think we should be reducing our quarantine, we need to be very cautious,” Dr. Henry said. “I do think that there are places that we could look at, particularly here in B.C. where we know our transmission is low, places like New Zealand, places like parts of Europe.”

“I do not see that quarantine period being reduce or stopped in the near future and we only have to look around us to see the risks [that] can bring.”

Dr. Henry highlighted that even Canadians travelling within the country have spread the virus so it is still important to be cautious about travel.

B.C.’s provincial health officer also stressed it is important for airlines to be able to provide usable flight manifests to public health officials in order to track and trace any possible COVID-19 cases, both internationally and domestically.

“We need to have a way of contacting people quickly,” Dr. Henry said, adding that sometimes the name isn’t even accurate, depending on who actually booked the flight and the system used.

‘Masks are safe to wear’

As some jurisdictions implement mandatory mask wearing rules, B.C.’s provincial health officer stressed that transit is one area where everyone should be wearing a mask, if they can.

“There are very few medical reasons why people can’t wear masks,” she said. “Masks are safe to wear.”

“They do not cause you to become hypoxic, they do not increase your risk of keeping viruses or bacteria or other things in, they do not exacerbate asthma or other lung conditions.”

4:30 p.m.: Ontario premier applauds ‘great’ deal with federal government

Ontario Premier Doug Ford responded to the recent announcement from the federal government that the $19 billion “safe restart” agreement has been reached. Ford said $7 billion is being allocated for Ontario as part of the “great” deal.

“By standing united…Ontario was in a very strong position to get the deal we needed with the federal government,” the premier said.

“At the end of the day the prime minister had the final say…and he pulled through, in my opinion, with spades. He stepped up, true leadership.”

The Ontario government also announced it is expanding the Risk Management Program, a year earlier than planned, by $50 million for a total of $150 million annually to support farmers.

This comes as the agriculture sector continues to recover during the COVID-19 pandemic and outbreaks among temporary foreign workers on farms were discovered.

“The reason they’re here is because a lot of folks here don’t want that job, it’s a tough job,” Ford said. “I’m first to admit, I couldn’t be out in the fields.”

3:15 p.m.: $19 billion safe restart agreement

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland announced the $19 billion “safe restart” agreement has been reached with provincial and territorial governments.

The funds will be used for seven different priority sectors, including money for testing and contact tracing, acquiring personal protective equipment (PPE), childcare and a sick leave plan, transit, and supporting Canada’s most vulnerable, including seniors in long-term care homes. There will also be additional funds available to support municipalities.

“Cities must remain up and running if our economy is to eventually get back up and running,” the prime minister said.

“We know that if our cities are not equipped for a safe restart…Canada won’t either,” Freeland added.

This deal is meant to cover six to eight months of time, with discussions continuing as the possibility of a second wave looms.

Trudeau said the federal government understands each province is facing “different realities” and an amount of flexibility is needed. He added that provinces and territories must be transparent about where funds are going and money cannot be taken from one priority bucket and put into another.

Canada-U.S. border restrictions remain

The prime minister also confirmed current restrictions at the Canada-U.S. border will remain until Aug. 21. This means all non-essential travel between the two countries will continue to be prohibited.

The deputy prime minister also spoke about the WE charity investigation, saying the government “made a mistake.”

“I’m really sorry,” Freeland said. “I very much regret what has happened.”

She added that prime minister Trudeau continues to have her “complete confidence.”

1:30 p.m.: Russian hackers target Canada, U.K., U.S. COVID-19 vaccine information

Security agencies in Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. have issued a statement about Russian cyber threat activity, which includes information on COVID-19 vaccine research, and COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.

“These malicious cyber activities were very likely undertaken to steal information and intellectual property relating to the development and testing of COVID-19 vaccines, and serve to hinder response efforts at a time when healthcare experts and medical researchers need every available resource to help fight the pandemic,” the statement reads.

How do you feel about Canada’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic? Tell us in the comments below?

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