Today’s coronavirus news: Toronto reports 141 new COVID-19 cases; Ontario reports 407 additional infections; Legault says he has tested negative
4:25 p.m.: Toronto Public Health is reporting 141 new infections, as of 2 p.m. Friday.
There are two new patients in hospital for a total of 26.
The number of deaths remain unchanged at 1,178 overall, and 73 more people have recovered for a total of 15,275 recoveries.
There have been a total of 17,400 cases since the pandemic began.
4:20 p.m.: Quebec Premier Francois Legault says he has tested negative for COVID-19.
Legault and his wife were tested after meeting with Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole on Monday.
In a message posted to his Facebook page, Legault said he would remain in isolation until Sept. 28 in accordance with public health guidelines.
O’Toole tested positive late Friday, hours after Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves- Francois Blanchet issued a statement saying he had tested positive.
Legault says he will continue to fulfil his duties from home, and will be replaced by deputy premier Genevieve Guilbault at question period and in news conferences.
In his message, Legault encouraged Quebecers to keep following public health guidelines.
“We all have our part of the responsibility in fighting the virus,” he wrote.
“I’m counting on all Quebecers to respect the rules and the health measures.”
4:20 p.m.: Quebec on Saturday reported its highest total of new cases since late May, as well as five additional deaths.
The 427 new cases bring the provincial total to 67,080.
Officials said two of the deaths occurred in the past 24 hours, while the other three occurred earlier, bringing the provincial death toll to 5,797.
Hospitalizations declined by five to 131, while the number of people in intensive case rose by one to 31.
Health officials carried out 29,079 tests on Sept. 17, the last day for which data is available.
4:20 p.m.: A major COVID-19 testing operation was underway in Quebec’s Bas-Saint-Laurent region after several positive cases were detected at a pork factory.
Regional health authorities were testing the 450 employees at Aliments Asta, a slaughterhouse in Saint-Alexandre-de-Kamouraska, 170 kilometres northeast of Quebec City.
They said in a news release that the testing operation is expected to finish later Saturday.
1:15 p.m. Police in London, England, have clashed with protesters at a rally organized by opponents of restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.
Scuffles broke out Saturday as police moved in to disperse hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Trafalgar Square. Some of the protesters formed blockades to stop officers from making arrests and traffic was brought to a halt in the busy area.
The rally included dozens of people holding banners and placards and chanting “freedom.”
Britain recently imposed a ban on all social gatherings of more than six people in a bid to tackle a steep rise in coronavirus cases.
Britain has 338,420 confirmed cases and 41,821 deaths, the fifth-highest death toll in the world, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
(Updated) 11:06 a.m. Premier Doug Ford has announced that social gatherings will be limited to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors, everywhere across the province.
Those limits were previously imposed in just three hot-spot regions, Toronto, Peel and Ottawa.
“Over the past several days, we have seen an alarming growth in the number of COVID-19 cases in the province,” Ford said at a rare weekend news conference. “Clearly, the numbers are heading in the wrong direction. That’s why we are taking decisive action to lower the size of unmonitored private social gatherings in every region of Ontario.”
The expanded limits, effective immediately for the next four weeks, include all parties, dinners, barbecues, weddings and other functions head in homes, backyards, parks and other recreational areas. Indoor and outdoor gatherings cannot be merged together.
The new limits do not apply to gatherings in staffed businesses and other facilities, such as bars, restaurants, cinemas, convention centres, banquet hall, gyms, places of worship, sporting or performing arts events, the government says.
Ontario is reporting 407 new cases of COVID-19 today and one new death. The figures mark the second time in as many days that the province has recorded more than 400 cases in a 24-hour period.
(Updated) 10:44 a.m. Ontario is reporting 407 new cases of COVID-19 today, and one new death associated with the coronavirus.
The figures mark the second time in as many days that the province has recorded more than 400 cases in a 24-hour period.
Numbers have been surging over the past few weeks, particularly in Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa.
Premier Doug Ford rolled back social gathering limits in those areas earlier this week and has indicated he’s willing to do the same in other regions.
He’s set to make an announcement later this morning alongside Health Minister Christine Elliott and the province’s associate chief medical officer of health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe.
Correction— Sept. 19, 2020: This entry has been updated from a previous version said there had been no new deaths related to the coronavirus.
10:04 a.m. Pope Francis is urging political leaders make sure coronavirus vaccines are available to the poorest nations.
He says in many parts of the world, there is a “pharmacological marginalization” of those without access to health care.
Francis met Saturday with members of an Italian aid group that collects donated medicines from pharmaceutical companies and distributes them to clinics and centres helping the neediest.
Francis says far too many people die in parts of the world for lack of drugs widely available elsewhere, and political leaders must take their plight into account.
“I repeat, it would be sad if in distributing the vaccine, priority was given to the wealthiest, or if a vaccine becomes the property of this or that nation and not for everyone,” the pope said.
Francis has previously called for universal access to the vaccine.
9:30 a .m. Ontario Premier Doug Ford is set to make a rare weekend announcement this morning related to COVID-19.
No details have been made immediately available, but Health Minister Christine Elliott and the province’s associate chief medical officer of health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, will also be on-hand.
Ford suspended weekend pandemic briefings over the summer as case numbers across the province declined.
But they’ve spiked again in recent weeks, with Ontario reporting 401 new COVID-19 cases on Friday.
Most of the new cases are concentrated in Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa, prompting Ford to roll back social gathering limits in those areas earlier this week.
The premier has said he plans to tighten restrictions in other areas as well, often at the request of local officials.
9 a.m. Ontarians are flooding to COVID-19 testing centres as the province sees a sharp spike in positive cases, a trend one Toronto psychologist calls reminuscent of the “toilet paper days” during the pandemic’s onset.
Outside Lakeridge Health Centre in Oshawa this week, Stephanie Hammond said she decided to get tested after developing a fever and cold-like symptoms. Her kids, Grades 6 and 4 students, were planning a return to in-class schooling but were staying home for the time being.
“I hope it’s nothing about the coronavirus,” said Hammond, 46. “These days, even a small glitch in your body terrifies the hell out of you.”
The tests completed has skyrocketed over the last two weeks. A record 35,826 tests were completed across the province on Thursday, with some assessment centres reporting waits as long as four hours. Meanwhile, Ontario saw more than 300 new cases almost every day this week — topping out at 400 new cases on Friday, according to the Star’s tally of reports from public health units.
Read the full story from the Star’s Gilbert Ngabo: Testing is the new toilet paper. How rising COVID-19 cases are stoking a second round of pandemic anxiety
8 a.m. Nursing home doctors contracted to care for residents in Scarborough’s Extendicare Guildwood did not enter the home during the devastating COVID-19 outbreak that killed 48 residents, even though managers “repeatedly” asked for their help.
At Camilla Care Community in Mississauga, where 68 residents infected with COVID died, physicians under contract with the home offered phone calls but “were not coming on site to support residents and staff.” It was a similar story in Scarborough’s Altamont Care Community, where 53 people died.
And at Woodbridge Vista Care Community, in Vaughan, where the virus killed 31 residents, the two doctors who remained on-site suffered from “overwork and burnout.”
There are many reasons why some doctors stayed away, including personal health issues, recommendations for “virtual visits” from professional organizations or the decision to work safely in one location. But their absence, at least in the most troubled homes, did not go unnoticed.
Read the full story from the Star’s Moira Welsh: Nursing home doctors were repeatedly asked to visit residents during the COVID-19 outbreak. They didn’t come. As virus resurges, Ontario considers new rules
8 a.m. India has maintained its surge in coronavirus cases, adding 93,337 new confirmed infections in the past 24 hours.
The Health Ministry on Saturday raised the nation’s caseload to more than 5.3 million out of the nearly 1.4 billion people. It said 1,247 more people died in the past 24 hours for a total of 85,619. The country has over a million active cases with about 80% recovery rate.
India has been reporting the highest single-day rise in the world every day for more than five weeks. It’s expected to become the pandemic’s worst-hit country within weeks, surpassing the United States.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has faced scathing criticism from opposition lawmakers in India’s Parliament for its handling of the pandemic amid a contracting economy leaving millions jobless.
More than 10 million migrant workers, out of money and fearing starvation, poured out of cities and headed back to villages when Modi ordered the nationwide lockdown on March 24. The migration was one key reason that the virus spread to the far reaches of the country while the lockdown caused severe economic pain. The economy contracted nearly 24% in the second quarter, the worst among the world’s top economies.
7 a.m. Members of the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine task force are casting worried eyes at the Trump administration’s political push to get a vaccine approved before the U.S. presidential election in November.
Dr. Joanne Langley, the task force co-chair, and member Alan Bernstein say they are concerned about “vaccine hesitancy” in Canada, the phenomenon where people have doubts about taking a readily available vaccine because of concerns about its safety.
Langley says that when a vaccine against COVID-19 is eventually found, governments and health-care professionals will have to mount a vigorous information campaign to counter opposition.
And it won’t help that President Donald Trump has said a pandemic-ending vaccine could be rolled out as soon as October, stoking concern that he is rushing the timeline to further his re-election chances on Nov. 3.
6 a.m. Halfway through their 14-day quarantine period, Diala Charab and Yehya Al-Ayoubi are excited to start working as health-care aides after arriving Sunday from Lebanon.
Despite COVID-19 travel restrictions that prevent most people from coming to Canada, the two nurses were exempted, resettled under a pilot project to bring skilled refugees to the country.
“Diala got her visa during the (COVID-19) lockdown … I got the visa after the Beirut explosion.” Al-Ayoubi said.
“Things were hectic, but we just wanted to come here and be beneficial, productive people in this society.”
Charab, 25, and Al-Ayoubi, 29, will join the staff of VHA Home HealthCare in Toronto as personal support workers.
Ernesto Sequera, VHA’s human-resources manager, said in a statement that the company is happy to bring health care workers to Canada to address the urgent need for more trained home-care professionals during the pandemic.
4:01 a.m. Health care workers in Canada made up about 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections as of late July, a figure that was higher than the global average.
In a report released earlier this month, the Canadian Institute for Health Information said 19.4 per cent of those who tested positive for the virus as of July 23 were health-care workers. Twelve health care workers, nine from Ontario and three from Quebec, died from COVID-19, it said.
The World Health Organization said in July that health-care workers made up 10 per cent of global COVID-19 infections.
A national federation of nurses’ unions blames the infection rate on a slow response to the pandemic, a shortage of labour and a lack of personal protective equipment.
4:01 a.m. A union representing Ontario’s hospital workers says it has concerns about the safety of the province’s plan to expand COVID-19 testing to pharmacies, as Premier Doug Ford pushed Friday to start the program later next week.
Ontario is expected in the coming days to unveil a plan to grant community pharmacies the ability to test for COVID-19 as it grapples with hours-long waits at some of the province’s 148 assessment centres.
Ford said last week he has been in discussions with groups that represents pharmacists and the major retailers that own Shoppers Drug Mart and Rexall.
But the president of the Council of Hospital Unions, a branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said the plan could bring people with the virus in contact with vulnerable seniors or other medically compromised people.
“Sending the public to a pharmacy and mingling with people who fear that they have COVID-19, and may be symptomatic … seems to me to be unwise and potentially not very safe,” Michael Hurley said.
12:34 a.m. Public health authorities in Italy are warning that the average age of coronavirus patients is creeping up as young people infect their more fragile parents and grandparents, risking new strain on the hospital system.
The Superior Institute of Health issued its weekly monitoring report Friday as the country where COVID-19 hit first in the West recorded the highest number of new infections — 1,907 — since May 1. Another 10 people died over the past day, bringing Italy’s official death toll to 35,668.
While Italy hasn’t seen the thousands of daily new infections other European countries have seen recently, its caseload has crept up steadily over the past seven weeks. Initially, most new infections were in young people who returned from vacation hotspots. The health institute said Friday that they are now infecting their older and more fragile loved ones in home settings, with the average age of positive cases last week at 41 versus the low 30s in August.
The institute warned that while the health system isn’t overwhelmed, it risks further strain if Italians don’t rigorously adhere to mask mandates and social distancing norms.
12:34 a.m. The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief says new global cases of the coronavirus appear to have plateaued at about 2 million and 50,000 deaths every week.
Dr. Michael Ryan says while the global COVID-19 caseload was not rising exponentially, the weekly number of deaths was still very unsettling.
“It’s not where developing countries want to be with their health systems under nine months of pressure,” Ryan said.
He says there have been recent surges in Europe, Ecuador and Argentina. He adds a lack of large increases in African countries and other nations might reflect a lack of testing.
10:49 p.m. Friday Sept. 18: Conservative leader Erin O’Toole has tested positive for COVID-19.
His positive result Friday evening came hours after Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet issued a statement that he too had tested positive.
Both men will now be unable to attend next week’s throne speech, with Blanchet required to isolate until at least Sept. 26 and O’Toole until at least Oct.1.
Late Friday, Quebec Premier Francois Legault said he will get tested for COVID-19 because he met with O’Toole earlier this week.
10 p.m. Friday Sept. 18: Four patrons of Noir, inside Rebel Nightclub, on 11 Polson St., have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Toronto Public Health.
The four confirmed cases visited the club on Sept. 11, from 10:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.
“Anyone who was at the night club during this time may have been exposed to COVID-19,” said Dr. Vinita Dubey, associate medical officer of health with TPH, in an email to the Star.
She asked anyone who visited the club during the above times to monitor themselves for symptoms until Sept. 25.
Read the full story: Toronto waterfront nightclub linked with four COVID-19 cases remains open