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Coronavirus: Health officials say there are 10 outbreaks in long-term care homes around Ontario

Ontario health officials say there are 10 outbreaks of coronavirus in long-term care homes across the province as facilities work to isolate those infected from healthy residents.

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate medical officer of health, confirmed the number in a provincial update Tuesday afternoon.

On Monday, Toronto’s Rekai Centre (Sherbourne Place) confirmed its first death, a man in his 60s with underlying health conditions.

In a statement, the centre said the man was diagnosed on Friday and was immediately put into isolation. He shared a room at the home.

“He had been isolated prior to that because we suspected he might have it due to symptoms, but he passed away last evening which has been devastating for his family and the staff that cared for him,” said Sue Graham-Nutter, CEO of the Rekai Centre.

The centre went on to confirm that there are three more residents who have tested positive and two others with tests pending.

“This virus moves very quickly as public health officials have been telling us and right now they’re all stable, thank god, but the virus does move fast and if they have underlying conditions, it can be very troubling,” Graham-Nutter said, adding the centre only has six private rooms and those are already filled.

She said they have been in discussions with the Ministry of Health about “various solutions” in regards to COVID-19 in long-term care homes, as well as with residents sharing rooms in the facilities.

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“We are well aware of the fact that sharing is not good,” Graham-Nutter said.

At the Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, Ont., 12 residents and a volunteer have died due to coronavirus.

There have been two deaths and a number of residents confirmed positive at Hillsdale Terraces Long-term Care Home in Oshawa, Ont.

The home confirmed it had 28 residents in isolation, split between three units.

When asked about issues of outbreaks at long-term care homes, Yaffe said there have been new directives put in place that she hopes will help, but warned that these homes house a vulnerable population.

“I know our staff is working with the ministry of long-term care to do more education and training for long-term care staff and retirement home staff and working with public health as well,” Yaffe said.

“I’m hoping with the more aggressive measures that are being put in place and the more aggressive training and support, that hopefully we’ll pick up cases as quickly as possible and that we’ll prevent as much as possible.”

Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, echoed Yaffe’s statement and said one of Toronto Public Health’s main objectives has been to “minimize the possibility of COVID-19 entering into long-term care settings.”

The city has said five long-term care homes have seen coronavirus outbreaks.

“Particularly with COVID-19, we’re always working, ensuring that infection protection and control measures are well applied in the long-term care setting because of the vulnerability of residents there,” de Villa continued.

De Villa went on to say that TPH works to ensure that those residents who have COVID-19 are “isolated to the extent they can be.”

“And each home we know has its own unique circumstances, but I can tell you that the team at TPH has been working around the clock with long-term care partners.”

De Villa said that any positive test at a home, whether it be a resident or staff member, is considered “very high priority.”

Meanwhile, Premier Doug Ford extended the province’s state of emergency to April 13, while Toronto Mayor John Tory cancelled all events in the city through June 30, both in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

As of 1 p.m. Tuesday, Ontario had 1,966 total cases of coronavirus. Thirty-three people have died and 534 cases have been resolved.

With files from Matthew Bingley

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Coronavirus: City of Toronto cancels events through June 30, including Pride Parade

The City of Toronto has cancelled events through June 30 amid the coronavirus pandemic, including the annual Pride Parade.

Toronto Mayor John Tory made the announcement during an update on the city’s response to COVID-19 Tuesday afternoon.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Toronto is cancelling all city-led major events, festivals, conferences, and cultural programs and is also cancelling all city permits for major events organized by external groups,” Tory said.

“This is not an easy decision to make, but it is necessary to protect the public and to save lives … While we treasure many of these events and the important contribution they make to life in our city, protecting the health and safety of Toronto residents has to be our primary concern right now.”

Tory said Pride month in June will still be celebrated, but the annual Pride Parade has been cancelled.

“Many of these events of course involve thousands of people, sometimes hundreds of thousands of people, and it is doubtful that the health environment will be where it needs to be on the originally-scheduled spring dates if these events are to happen in a healthy, safe, and stress-free way,” Tory said.

Pride Toronto responded to news of the City’s policy in a statement Tuesday.

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“Pride Toronto will no longer host the Festival Weekend on June 26-28th 2020,” the statement read.

“Our team is working hard to deliver Pride celebrations in new, creative, and unique ways that ensure safety and physical distancing … Any future programming will be in alignment with the recommendations of the public health authorities and the communities we serve.”

Sixty-five people are in hospital, with 33 in intensive care. Eight deaths have been reported in the city and 43 people are considered recovered.

Health officials attribute 25 per cent of the cases to community spread.

“We will only be able to get through this and reopen city buildings, businesses, playgrounds, restart our economy, get our festivals back and celebrate life in our city again by stopping the spread of COVID-19,” Tory said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Eileen de Villa said she was concerned with the number of people in the city who are not following physical distancing advice.

“I have been stating repeatedly the importance of physical distancing and I am truly disappointed that there continue to be people in our community who are simply not listening,” de Villa said.

“The only way we can reduce the spread of the virus is by staying home and away from other people …

“I am in active discussions with all of our partners about the potential for other increased measures and I will soon share what that means and what that looks like.”

Since March 24, officials have received 597 complaints related to the use of park amenities. Officials said education is their “first line of enforcement.”

Still, nine $750 tickets have been issued by police.

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World News

Coronavirus: London off-leash dog parks closed following provincial order

London’s off-leash dog parks have been closed until further notice following an emergency order from the province to close all outdoor recreational amenities amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The order was announced by the province Monday night under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, and also impacts sports fields and playgrounds.

London closed its outdoor play structures, sports fields and golf courses just over a week ago.

“We’re just following the provincial lead, and it’s around the physical distancing,” Scott Stafford, the city’s managing director of parks and recreation, said in an interview with Global News Radio 980 CFPL’s Jess Brady.

We were actually seeing some very good physical distancing as we monitor the parks over the last few weeks, but it’s a place where people are going to gather. And it’s not only a social place for dogs, it’s a social place for their owners as well.”

Stafford said some of the off-leash dog parks have turnstile gates at their entrances, which will be locked or closed effective Tuesday.

He added that the city doesn’t anticipate adding caution tape signage like it has at some of the city’s more popular playgrounds.

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We do have over 175 playgrounds in the city, so we haven’t caution taped them all,” he said. “We do have signs on all of them, but we did some of the premier ones that are more exposed to just kind of reinforce that messaging.”

Two people were caught on video Friday tearing down the caution tape surrounding the playground in Gibbons Park. The incident was reported to the city through its new tipline, and caution tape has since been restored at the playground.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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Health

7 new COVID-19 cases in PEI, Newfoundland and Labrador

There are three new cases of COVID-19 on Prince Edward Island, and four more in Newfoundland and Labrador, provincial officials said Tuesday.

That brings P.E.I.’s total to 21.

Chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison said all three new cases are people who had travelled internationally and are self-isolating.

She said a man in Summerside has been fined $1,000 for failing to self-isolate.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial total is now 152.

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the chief medical officer of health, said all the cases are in the Eastern Health authority.

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She said 11 people have been hospitalized due to the virus and two are in intensive care.

Municipal and privately-owned parks and campgrounds have been ordered to close but Fitzgerald said people should still exercise outside while keeping their distance from others.

As of March 31, there over 7,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada.  A total of 516 of those cases are people who have recovered, and 95 people who have died

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Health

Montreal races to create more shelters for homeless people amid coronavirus crisis

The number of cases of the novel coronavirus continues to rise in Montreal, reaching 1,991 on Tuesday, up from 1,612 on Monday.

Social distancing measures put in place in a bid to contain the spread of the virus have made providing food and shelter to the city’s homeless population difficult.

On Friday, Mayor Valérie Plante declared a state of emergency, citing a need to protect the city’s most vulnerable amid the COVID-19 pandemic. She also announced that the city planned to open more temporary shelters in the coming days.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Plante provided an update on the measures that have been put in place since the beginning of the health crisis.

Two new temporary shelters — one for women and one for men — have been opened to cope with the reduced number of beds in regular shelters due to physical distancing rules.

Two day centres have been set up outside, one at Cabot Square and another at Parc Emilie-Gamelin, where people in need can get some food and rest for a bit under a tent.

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The former Royal Victoria Hospital, which served as an emergency overflow shelter in the winter months, is being transformed to house homeless people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are awaiting a diagnosis. Currently, those awaiting diagnosis are being housed in a hotel, while positive cases requiring treatment are being transferred to Notre-Dame hospital.

Plante said there are 24 sanitary blocks in the downtown area to help support the homeless community but despite all the measures, more needs to be done.

“Of course the needs remain huge and we don’t want to leave anyone behind,” she said.

To tackle the need for more beds, two new shelters will be opening this week: one at Bonsecours Market in Old Montreal with a capacity of 50 beds reserved for men and one at the Jean-Claude Malépart Centre in the Centre-Sud borough with 60 beds for both men and women. This will add to the 108 beds for men at Complexe Guy-Favreau and the 40 beds for women at the downtown YMCA.

The Royal Victoria will also be adding 100 units to provide shelter to the most vulnerable among the homeless population, including the elderly.

Three new outdoor day shelters — one at Place du Canada, one at Jeanne-Mance Park and the other outside the Francis Bouillon arena in Mercier-Hochelaga — were ready to welcome their new residents Tuesday afternoon.

The various shelters and day centres are being operated by community partners, including Resilience Montreal, the Old Brewery Mission and Mission Bon Accueil.

Plante said those on the front lines providing services to homeless people have not been forgotten.

“There is a first delivery of protection material as well as sanitary material that will be distributed to ensure the protection of workers,” she said.

She concluded by saying that the current health crisis cannot be allowed to turn into a humanitarian crisis as well.

“Everyone counts, everybody must be safe, everyone must have a shelter,” she said. “That’s why we are working so hard to find solutions quickly.”

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Health

Premier Doug Ford warns medical supply shortage may loom with surge in COVID-19 cases

TORONTO – Ontario reported 351 new COVID-19 cases Monday, the province’s largest single-day increase by far, as Premier Doug Ford warned that a shortage of critical medical supplies may be perilously close.

Officials are “working every contact we have” to secure more equipment such as masks and gloves for front-line workers, Ford said, but the more time Ontario gets to prepare, the more lives will be saved.

“It will take time for local production to ramp up and for new supplies to reach us,” Ford said.

“The reality is if there’s a massive surge of people coming into our hospitals in the next two weeks, our supply lines will be seriously challenged.”

About 10 per cent of people in the province who have tested positive for COVID-19 so far have been hospitalized, provincial figures show.

The new total of cases in the province is now at 1,706 – including 431 resolved cases and 33 deaths.

Seven of the province’s deaths have been in one nursing home in Bobcaygeon, which the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit believes is the largest outbreak in the province.

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At least 24 staff members are infected, with another 10 awaiting test results.

Three residents at Pinecrest Nursing Home tested positive and since then, more than 30 other residents developed symptoms, though they have not been tested – per provincial guidelines – since the virus was already confirmed to be in the facility.

Another person in the community has died in a case linked to the nursing home.

Long-Term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton said she is looking at more intense screening for long-term care homes and more advanced ways to isolate people infected at those facilities.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health strongly recommended Monday that everyone in the province – especially people over 70 and with compromised immune systems – stay home except for essential reasons.

“The lives of many Ontarians, especially our community’s most vulnerable citizens, (are) in your hands and will depend on your actions over the coming days and weeks,” Dr. David Williams said in a statement.

Ford reiterated Monday that he is prepared to take further action, lamenting that he saw “the streets were packed” on the previous day’s sunny afternoon, but that he is waiting for advice from Williams.

Ford also said he would be extending the state of emergency, which had been set to expire Tuesday, and orders many facilities closed, including daycares, libraries, and bars and restaurants except to do take-out or delivery.

Officials attribute the surge in new cases Monday at least in part to clearing a backlog of pending test results.

Several days ago there were nearly 11,000 people waiting for their results, but that started to come down as the province added more testing capacity. As of Monday the number stood at 5,651.

The number of resolved cases had been stuck at eight for many days, but health officials had said to expect a large jump once the data caught up to a new definition for resolved.

The increase in the number of resolved cases to 431 also means there are actually fewer active COVID-19 cases in Ontario – 1,252 – than the 1,324 that Sunday’s data had indicated.

A new reporting format from the province also shows that more than 61 per cent of all cases are in the Greater Toronto Area.

Information on how people became infected is still pending for nearly half of all cases in Ontario. About 16 per cent are attributed to community spread, 26 per cent to recent travel, and nearly 10 per cent to close contact with another confirmed case.

The median age of people infected is 50, with cases ranging in age from under one year old to 100 years old.

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Health

Some Lethbridge churches amp up online Sunday services during COVID-19 crisis

Religious institutions are temporarily closed to the public as restrictions on mass gatherings have been put in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Alberta.

But that hasn’t stopped weekly Sunday services from taking place through online streaming.

Both the Evangelical Free Church of Lethbridge and MyVictory Church have been live streaming their services for a few years now. However, due to COVID-19, they’ve had to tailor the service for an audience that is entirely online now.

“It’s a big change for us, but it’s exciting too. We do consider that we used to be speaking to 200 to 400 people at a time and now we have an opportunity to speak to just individuals,” said Geoff Heth, the lead pastor at the E-free Church.

“So, we’ve had to change the format of what we’ve done. We used to have 30 to 35 minutes of just us speaking, but now we are breaking it up into segments,” Heth adds.

He goes on to say the church decided to break up the service so that the viewers would have a chance to talk about the material with their families, friends, or whoever they may be watching with at home.

Mike Dosso, the technical director at the church, has helped at least three other congregations in places as far away as Saskatchewan set up their online service. He said the churches reached out to him through a mutual contact or through Facebook groups.

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“It ranges a lot — either from setting up video switchers, projection software, and making all of that stuff play nicely,” he said. “There are a lot of churches out there that don’t have the personnel or the the equipment like we do.”

Dosso said since the church has already been live streaming their services for three years now, it didn’t take much to change things up for an audience that is strictly online now.

“We did move a lot of equipment around, we had to hang some lights, set up some sounds and video equipment, honestly it wasn’t a huge shift for us to move to a setup like this,” Dosso explained. “We’re really blessed to have the tech resources,” he said.

MyVictory church says its messages remain unchanged despite not being able to physically meet with fellow church goers.

“We’ve got five things we ask people to do: we ask them to attend, we ask them to connect, we ask them to serve, we ask them to give, and we ask them to invite,” said Ralph Molyneux, the pastor at MyVictory churches.

“It’s really not about our building at all; the building is just where we happen to meet… we can still do those things,” Molyneux said.

He added that during times of uncertainty and high anxiety, keeping faith and finding purpose both inside and outside the church can help people.

“We’ve been putting in a lot of effort to keep our congregation – which is in five different cities – now stay connected by setting up a Facebook group, Zoom… to keep everyone connected,” said Kelly Stickel, lead pastor at the MyVictory church.

Stickel said the church has never had to go through anything like this before, however, since the church has been livestreaming its services for the past five years, he said it was prepared for the technical challenges.

“We pre-recorded a bunch of the music beforehand, because we saw what was happening in Washington first, and then the rest of North America, we knew there were going to be restrictions on large people gathering,” he said.

Stickel said a lot of the content they pre-recorded involved many production staff having to gather together.

He adds that keeping people connected right now is the more challenging feat.

The two organizations have been teaming up with MyCityCare Lethbridge to help provide the distribution of food supplies, clothing, and other donations throughout the community.

The churches said they also want to help make sure seniors are receiving the extra care they need during this pandemic as many of them are undergoing long periods of self-isolation and physical distancing.

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Coronavirus: As case counts climb, London-area crisis centre sees influx of calls

With the COVID-19 pandemic overtaking nearly every facet of daily life, more and more London-area residents are turning to local crisis centres for help getting through this challenging time.

At the Middlesex arm of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), calls to its crisis support line have risen by 50 per cent over the last two weeks, with calls to its volunteer-run supportive listening line up 43 per cent, according to the agency’s director of crisis services and short-term interventions.

“I think when this was all happening, we did expect that we may have more people reaching out who are in crisis or in distress. But certainly it’s been even higher than we expected,” said Lori Hassall in an interview Monday with Global News Radio 980 CFPL’s Devon Peacock.

“I am glad that people are reaching out, that they know where to call and that supports are available because it’s a tough time for our whole community.”

Its main crisis line, staffed by agency workers trained in crisis intervention and mental health and addictions services, offers immediate support or information to those who need it, while its volunteer-run line offers supportive listening to callers who may be feeling anxious or overwhelmed.

Both operate around the clock, seven days a week, with the heaviest call times being between mid-morning and mid-evening, Hassall said.

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“We do get calls in the middle of the night. People who maybe can’t sleep and are feeling anxious and overwhelmed and just want to talk to someone.”

With some of the agency’s services on hold or reduced temporarily, such as those offered in the community, Hassall says staff members from those areas have been redeployed to the crisis line to help respond to more calls.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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Health

Coronavirus: Outbreak at Oshawa long-term care home worsens as 6th death reported

The outbreak of coronavirus at an Oshawa long-term care home has worsened with one more death, bringing the total to six, according to the Durham Region Health Department (DRHD).

The department confirmed the additional death, a man in his 90s, at Hillsdale Terraces Long-term Care Home on Monday. DRHD said the man was tested and confirmed positive for COVID-19 after his death.

On March 19, it was first reported that four residents, two women aged 80 and 92 and two men, aged 68 and 71, tested positive for the virus.

On March 25,  the home confirmed a woman in her 90s was transferred to Lakeridge Health Oshawa hospital two days earlier where she died. She tested positive for the virus on the same day she died.

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Officials at the home later said they were working to contain the outbreak, which had then infected eight residents and had 28 residents in isolation across three units.

On Monday, Ontario confirmed 351 new coronavirus cases. The death toll also rose from 23 to 33 in the province.

Hillsdale isn’t the only long-term care home facing an outbreak, as a home in Bobcageon has had nine deaths and over 30 residents and staff workers confirmed positive for COVID-19.

Ontario health officials, along with the Ford government, have urged residents to stay at home as much as possible and to only go out when its essential, even going as far as banning gatherings of more than five people.

Premier Doug Ford reiterated the recommendation Monday for residents aged 70 and older or those with compromised immune systems to self-isolate.

With files from Frazer Snowdon

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Health

Coronavirus: University of Guelph donates 10,000 masks to frontline workers

The University of Guelph says it is donating 10,000 N95 masks and other much-needed personal protective equipment to help in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

In a statement, the university said the masks were delivered to Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health in what was expected to be the first of several expected shipments donated to health-care workers.

“This is a time when we need to step up and do what we can do to help,” vice-president Don O’Leary said.

Plans are underway to provide disinfectant wipes, nitrile gloves, hand sanitizer, surgical masks, isolation gowns and other items.

The Ontario Veterinary College on the U of G campus will also be donating ventilator equipment.

The university said it is working with public health to co-ordinate the best way to donate supplies.

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“We are happy we are able to support our frontline workers and will continue to look for more ways the university can contribute to the fight against COVID-19,” O’Leary said.

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