Today’s coronavirus news: Toronto shelters to make masks mandatory; Transport Canada issues first fines to air passengers who refused to wear masks; Ontario reporting 148 cases of COVID-19
The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Friday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
3:03 p.m. Public health officials on Prince Edward Island are reporting one new case of COVID-19, bringing the total number of active cases in the province to three.
Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Heather Morrison, said today the latest case involves a male in his late teens who travelled to P.E.I. from outside Canada.
She says he arrived on Prince Edward Island Aug. 29 and developed COVID-19 symptoms while in isolation.
Meanwhile, travel information is now known for the two positive cases of COVID-19 reported Thursday.
Both men travelled from Vancouver to Charlottetown on Air Canada flights 128 and 8358 on Aug. 23 and Aug. 24, respectively. Morrison says all passengers who were on those flights should monitor for symptoms.
Prince Edward Island has had a total of 47 positive cases of COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic.
3 p.m.: Toronto will move to make masks and face coverings mandatory in common spaces of its shelter system, the city has announced, marking a change from previous rules that dictated that only staff and essential visitors were required to wear masks in shelter and respite facilities.
Shelters, under the previous set of rules, are considered by the city to be people’s “residences,” not public spaces – meaning they have been exempt from the city bylaw mandating the wearing of masks in indoor spaces.
The change announced Friday came after talks with partners in the homeless service sector, the city said, and the new policy would be in place at all shelter locations by the end of September – with a directive issued to providers next week, then a set-out transition period.
The lack of mandatory masks for shelter residents had been criticized by outreach workers like street nurse Cathy Crowe, since it was confirmed in a memo to homelessness service providers on Aug. 11.
A draft of a shelter recovery plan created by Toronto’s Shelter, Support and Housing Administration alongside the United Way – which was obtained recently by the Star, and is set to be released in its final form later this month – says coordinating the provision of personal protective equipment to both frontline staff and clients in the shelter system had been recognized as “helpful and important” to infection prevention and control.
1:51 p.m. The head of the World Health Organization says the U.N. health agency won’t recommend any coronavirus vaccine before it is proved safe and effective.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the comment Friday, even as Russia and China have started using their experimental vaccines before long-term studies have been completed. Other countries have proposed streamlining authorization procedures.
He says vaccines have been used successfully for decades and credited them with eradicating smallpox and bringing polio to near elimination. He pointed to newly developed Ebola vaccines that helped end the recent Ebola outbreak in Congo.
Tedros appealed to people opposed to vaccination to do their own research.
“The anti-vaccine movement, they can build narratives to fight against vaccines. But the track record of vaccines tells its own story and people should not be confused,” he says. “They can have a look for themselves on how the world actually used vaccines to reduce under 5 mortality to save children.”
He says he’s hopeful there’d soon be an effective coronavirus vaccine “so the world can get back to normal.”
1:51 p.m. Spain is nearing a half a million coronavirus infections since the beginning of the pandemic after adding more than 10,000 new cases on Friday.
The new Health Ministry data showed a significant increase in the latest wave of contagion sweeping Spain, although authorities say the situation has no comparison with when the outbreak peaked.
Health authorities say Spain is testing more, most of the cases discovered don’t require hospitalization and the treatment of patients has improved.
There were 184 deaths added on Friday for a total toll of 29,418.
1:20 p.m. Dr. Theresa Tam says the fall will bring new risks in the COVID-19 pandemic along with its colder weather and holidays that usually bring families together.
Canada’s chief public health officer says Canadians need to consider their own risk factors and the details of the plans for any gathering before deciding to go mark an occasion in person with friends and family.
She says knowing the people you’re with does not protect you from catching the virus that causes the respiratory illness.
Tam says government agencies, employers and individuals understand the virus better now, so the situation we’re facing is different from the one in the spring when COVID-19 first spread.
But an average of 525 COVID-19 cases a day have been reported in Canada the past week, a noticeable uptick from earlier in the summer, and schools are reopening across the country.
Tam says downloading the government’s COVID Alert app is one way to mitigate the risks of catching and spreading the illness unknowingly although it is currently only operational in Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador.
1:20 p.m. Despite authorities reporting more than 180 new COVID-19 infections for the second consecutive day, Quebec Premier Francois Legault said Friday the contagion in the province is under control.
The Health Department said there were 184 new cases of COVID-19, three fewer than on Thursday. Legault, speaking to reporters northeast of Montreal, asked Quebecers to be prudent ahead of the long Labour Day weekend.
“I am asking you not to let your guard down,” he said. “I know there are people who are tired of these measures — it’s been six months. But it’s important that we can’t let up. It’s important that there is the least amount of propagation of the virus possible.”
Although he issued a warning, the premier also downplayed the latest COVID-19 figures that indicate the infection rate is rising in the province. He said “we aren’t anywhere near” the days back in April and May when the province was regularly reporting hundreds of new daily cases.
“We are still in control.”
But the premier said Quebecers still need to wear masks and keep their distance from one another. “The trend isn’t good. I’m asking all Quebecers for their help in lowering the infection rate.”
12:40 p.m. The federal government has started providing cash for food processors across the country to help them deal with COVID-19.
A $77.5-million emergency fund was announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in May to help food processors adapt to COVID-19 protocols, including acquiring more protective equipment for workers.
It was also supposed to help upgrade and reopen meat facilities shuttered due to outbreaks of the novel coronavirus.
Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau visited the Exceldor chicken processing plant in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, Que., on Friday to announce the first wave of funded projects.
“We thought Exceldor was a good example of a chicken plant that was challenged by COVID quite a bit. And they will receive $262,000 to provide PPEs to their workers, hand-washing stations, that type of Plexiglas they install to separate workers from others,” Bibeau said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
“It’s that type of investment that they probably started to make for a while to protect their workers.”
The government has so far approved 32 projects worth $10.5 million, including nearly $805,000 to JBS Food Canada for its meat- processing plant at Brooks, Alta., and $1.8 million for Maple Leaf Foods operations in Ontario.
Sofina Foods, which has 16 facilities across Canada, including the Lilydale poultry-processing plant in Calgary, is to get $995,000. Olymel, with 10 plants across Canada, is to receive nearly $1.8 million.
Cargill, which operates a large beef-processing plant in High River, Alta., is not on the initial list of funded projects.
Officials are still reviewing other applications and future announcements are planned over the next few weeks.
12:37 p.m. Federal transport officials have issued the first fines to air passengers who refused to wear face masks on Canadian flights, in violation of a government order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Transport Canada says two unnamed people have been fined $1,000 each for refusing to follow directions from air crews to wear their face coverings.
The first incident occurred June 14 on a WestJet flight from Calgary to Waterloo while the second took place July 7 on a WestJet flight from Vancouver to Calgary.
Transport Canada says the passengers were each directed repeatedly by the air crews to wear their face coverings during the flights and in both cases the individuals refused.
Under the federal order, all travellers must have face masks and wear them while boarding, during the flight and when leaving the aircraft.
In addition, travellers must comply with any instructions given by a gate agent or a crew member with respect to wearing a face covering.
12 p.m. Slovan Bratislava lost its appeal Friday against exclusion from the Champions League by UEFA after players tested positive for COVID-19 in pre-game checks.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld UEFA’s ruling last week that ordered the Slovakian champion to forfeit a first qualifying round game in the Faeroe Islands without playing.
Public authorities in the Faeroe Islands put two different squads of Slovan’s players into quarantine when a virus infection in each group was reported in tests required by UEFA.
The game was postponed twice, then UEFA’s appeal panel awarded Faeroes champion KI Klaksvik a 3-0 win to advance to the next round. Slovan later said all 35 players tested negative on returning to Slovakia.
Friday’s urgent ruling from a CAS judge — without yet specifying reasons — was the second verdict Slovan lost there within 10 days.
11:33 a.m. Quebec is reporting more than 180 cases of COVID-19 for the second consecutive day. Health officials said today there were 184 new confirmed COVID-19 infections.
The province also reported one additional death attributed to the coronavirus in the past 24 hours. Quebec has now reported a total of 63,117 cases of COVID-19 and 5,767 deaths linked to the virus.
The total number of deaths remained stable, however, because one death previously added to the tally was found to be unrelated to the pandemic.
Hospitalizations increased by two compared with the prior day, to 102, while the number of intensive-care patients decreased by two, for a total of 18.
11 a.m. Russian scientists have belatedly published first results from early trials into the experimental Sputnik V vaccine, which received government approval last month but drew considerable criticism from experts, as the shots had only been tested on several dozen people before being more widely administered.
In a report published in the journal Lancet on Friday, developers of the vaccine said it appeared to be safe and to prompt an antibody response in all 40 people tested in the second phase of the study within three weeks. However, the authors noted that participants were only followed for 42 days, the study sample was small and there was no placebo or control vaccine used.
One part of the safety trial included only men and the study mostly involved people in their 20s and 30s, so it is unclear how the vaccine might work in older populations most at risk of the more severe complications of COVID-19.
International experts remained cautious over the vaccine’s effectiveness and safety. Nevertheless, its Russian developers made some bold claims Friday after presenting the findings to reporters.
Professor Alexander Gintsburg, director of the Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute that developed the vaccine with assistance from Russia’s Defence Ministry, told reporters that the vaccine triggers “sufficient” immune response “to counteract any imaginable dose infecting (a person) with COVID-19.”
“We are ready to assert that the protective effect of this vaccine will be detectable and remain at a proper level for 2 years, or maybe even more,” Gintsburg said, without providing any evidence to back up the claim.
10:48 a.m. (updated) Ontario is reporting 148 new cases of COVID-19 today, with the province’s health minister saying nearly half of them are concentrated in one area just west of Toronto.
Christine Elliott says in a tweet that 72 of the new diagnoses are in Peel Region, long one of the provincial hotspots for the novel coronavirus.
Elliott says Toronto itself accounted for 41 of the new cases, with 13 found in Ottawa.
The province did not report any new COVID-related deaths today.
Elliott says the rest of the province’s public health units reported five or fewer cases, with 12 recording none at all.
The province completed more than 28,500 tests in the past 24 hours.
The new diagnoses bring the province’s total number of confirmed cases to 42,834.
10:32 a.m. The next big test of whether Californians can slow the spread of the coronavirus will come this holiday weekend, with officials hoping the public will refrain from the large gatherings and risky behavior that contributed to a spike in COVID-19 infections and deaths after a disastrous Memorial Day weekend.
California spent much of the summer paying the price for a rapid reopening of the economy in late May and early June, with a coronavirus surge from mid-June through the weeks after the Fourth of July that led to record deaths and new concerns about the virus spreading among young people and essential workers.
Now, Labour Day weekend — the final big holiday of the summer — poses new risks as it coincides with the easing of additional COVID-19 restrictions.
Health officials are hoping the shock of the summer will prompt people to play it safe this weekend, in part because so much is riding on keeping numbers down and to prevent history from repeating itself. If infections continue to decline, some classrooms could reopen this fall. There are also hopes that conditions will improve enough by the holiday season to allow for more in-person shopping.
10:26 a.m. Ontario is reporting 148 cases of COVID-19 as the province processed over 28,500 tests. Peel is reporting 72 new cases, with 41 in Toronto and 13 in Ottawa. Every other public health unit is reporting five or fewer cases, with 12 units reporting no new cases.
10:04 a.m. German pharmaceutical company CureVac says it is receiving a further $298 million (U.S.) to develop a coronavirus vaccine.
The company says its request for additional funding has been approved by Germany’s Ministry for Education and Research, provided certain milestones are reached.
Germany’s state-owned KfW bank has already taken a 23 per cent stake in CureVac for 300 million euros.
The company launched an initial public offering of shares, but its main shareholder remains Dietmar Hopp, the co-founder of German software giant SAP.
CureVac is among a small number of companies that aim to develop a COVID-19 vaccine using mRNA technology that experts say could allow rapid inoculation on a larger scale than traditional forms of vaccination.
10 a.m. Statistics Canada says the economy added 246,000 in August as the pace of job gains slowed compared with July, when 419,000 jobs were added.
The figure marked the fourth consecutive month of gains from COVID-19 related lockdowns this spring, bringing the number to within 1.1 million of pre-pandemic levels.
Gains in August were largely concentrated in full-time work, which had been lagging behind gains in part-time employment.
Full-time work rose by 206,000 while the number of part-time workers rose by 40,000.
Full-time employment is now almost six per cent away from pre-pandemic levels compared to the 3.9 per cent shortfall in part-time work.
Employment also rose at a faster pace for women than men for the third straight month as Statistics Canada reported women gained about 150,000 positions in August compared with 96,000 for men.
9:30 a.m. The U.S. unemployment rate fell sharply in August to 8.4 per cent from 10.2 per cent even as hiring slowed, with employers adding the fewest jobs since the pandemic began.
Employers added 1.4 million jobs, the Labor Department said, down from 1.7 million in July. The U.S. economy has recovered about half the 22 million jobs lost to the pandemic.
Friday’s report added to evidence that nearly six months after the coronavirus paralyzed the country, the economy is mounting only a fitful recovery. From small businesses to hotels, restaurants, airlines and entertainment venues, a wide spectrum of companies are struggling to survive the loss of customers with confirmed viral cases still high.
After an epic collapse in the spring, when the economy shrank at a roughly 30 per cent annual rate, growth has been rebounding as states have reopened at least parts of their economies. Yet the recovery remains far from complete.
Many economists think significant hiring may be hard to sustain because employers are operating under a cloud of uncertainty about the virus. Daily confirmed case counts have fallen from 70,000 in June to about 40,000. The decline has levelled off in the past week and the viral caseload remains higher than it was in May and June.
9:20 a.m. With students and teachers preparing to return to classrooms across the country this month, experts say ramping up testing protocols is one way to help provide a safe transition back to school.
Some epidemiologists believe testing a group of COVID nasal-swab samples together — a strategy known as pooled testing or batch testing — might be a more efficient method for dealing with a large number of tests that could potentially be coming in.
Colin Furness, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, envisions an ideal scenario where teachers would be tested for COVID twice a week. If that were to happen in Ontario, a province with roughly 160,000 teachers, Furness says labs would be processing more than 300,000 tests each week just on teachers.
“We don’t really have the capacity to do that. And that is extremely concerning to me,” Furness said. “So pooled testing would be one way of saying ‘all right, we have an existing laboratory processing capacity. Let’s multiply it.’”
Pooled testing works by mixing a number of samples together — Furness suggests eight — and screening them for the novel coronavirus at the same time. This could theoretically include a group of teachers working at the same school, or students and teachers in the same cohort.
8:30 a.m. Former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, who has COVID-19 and a history of heart and other medical problems, was admitted Friday to a Milan hospital, where tests found he has the “beginnings” of pneumonia, state radio said.
One of Berlusconi’s top aides, Sen. Licia Ronzulli, told RAI state TV earlier that the 83-year-old media mogul was undergoing “precautionary monitoring”and had spent the night “well.” Berlusconi tested positive for the coronavirus earlier in the week.
A CT scan done at San Raffaele Hospital found the “beginnings of pneumonia in both lungs,” the late-morning radio report said.
Sky TG24, reporting from outside the hospital, said Berlusconi had been given oxygen at the hospital to aid his breathing. Italian media have stressed Berlusconi isn’t in intensive care.
8:11 a.m. Premier Doug Ford’s push against retailers’ pandemic price gouging has triggered more than 26,000 consumer complaints to the government, newly available data reveals.
But it appears as if public concerns over the practice have tapered off in recent months.
Early in the COVID-19 outbreak last March, Ford blew a gasket after a Toronto grocer was selling Lysol disinfectant wipes for $29.99, which usually cost a fraction of that.
Even though Ontario’s state of emergency, which ran from March 17 until July 24, has officially ended, the Progressive Conservatives extended the order against price gouging.
“We recognize that Ontario families still need access to necessary goods, including protective supplies, to address the ongoing threat of COVID-19 as the province continues its path to recovery,” Government and Consumer Services Minister Lisa Thompson’s office said in a statement to the Star.
7 a.m. The Madrid regional government is further restricting family reunions and social gatherings to curb a sharp spike in confirmed coronavirus cases as schools are set to re-open, although officials said Friday that new infections in and around the Spanish capital were being brought under control.
Authorities said an existing ban on outdoor meetings of more than 10 people is being extended indoors because most recent infections have been tied to gatherings in private homes. Attendance at funerals, burials, weddings and religious celebrations, as well as group visits to museums or guided tourism will also be restricted starting Monday, authorities said.
Nearly one-third of Spain’s new virus infections are in and around Madrid, a region of 6.6 million with high population density and a hub for economic activity for the rest of the country. At least 16% of the beds in Madrid’s hospitals are occupied by COVID-19 patients, the highest rate of all Spanish regions.
Regional health chief Enrique Ruíz Escudero said that despite the recent trends, “the situation has nothing to do with what we went through two months ago.”
“The pandemic in the Madrid community is stable and is controlled,” Ruíz Escudero said. “We are not alarmed.”
Madrid is also expanding the number of contact tracers, which has been one of the weakest links in dealing with the new wave of virus cases, and purchasing 2 million rapid coronavirus test kits.
Spain, which is edging to a half-million confirmed cases since February, is leading the pandemic’s second wave in Europe. The country had a rate of virus prevalence above 212 cases per 100,000 residents for the past two weeks. At least 29,234 people have died in Spain during the pandemic.
5 a.m.: Ontario’s public health agency will soon begin evaluating a rapid and purportedly highly accurate COVID-19 test — an indication we are edging closer to the day when screening for the virus becomes a routine chore, experts say, while warning that scientific and logistical hurdles remain.
If the test functions as claimed — offering results in under 20 minutes, with 93.3 per cent sensitivity, using a point-of-care device that functions like a pregnancy test — and if it is authorized by Health Canada, Public Health Ontario (PHO) hopes to get a jump on obtaining many more, the agency’s lab lead says.
5 a.m.: Ontario’s largest children’s mental health advocacy group is warning that kids struggling with serious mental health issues amid the pandemic could be left behind unless the province steps up with more support.
Children’s Mental Health Ontario (CMHO), a group representing almost 100 publicly funded child and youth mental health centres, is calling on the province to provide more funding for community mental health centres for youth.
The ask comes on the heels of new data that reveals children and youth with mild to severe mental health issues are suffering disproportionately during the COVID-19 pandemic.
4:25 a.m.: France has closed 22 of its 62,000 schools since in-person classes resumed this week because of virus infections.
Of those, 10 were on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion, where access to health care is poorer than on mainland France and the number of virus patients in hospitals has jumped in recent weeks.
Education Minister Jean-Blanquer told Europe-1 radio that overall, French schools have reported about 250 suspected virus cases per day since they started reopening Tuesday.
Not all those cases turn out to be positive, but once a suspicion is reported, schools must follow an extensive government protocol that can include sending a whole class home for online learning or shutting the whole school.
The French government, like many around Europe, ordered the in-person reopening of all schools this week to tackle inequalities worsened by lockdowns and get parents back to work to revive the economy.
4:20 a.m.: The number of people confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus in India rose by another 80,000 and is near Brazil’s total, the second-highest in the world.
The 83,341 cases added in the past 24 hours pushed India’s total past 3.9 million, according to the Health Ministry. Brazil has confirmed more than 4 million infections while the U.S. has more 6.1 million people infected, according to Johns Hopkins University.
India’s Health Ministry on Friday also reported 1,096 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 68,472.
India’s case fatality rate of 1.75% is well below the global average of 3.3%, the ministry said. Experts have questioned whether some Indian states have undercounted deaths.
India added nearly 2 million coronavirus cases in August alone.
4 a.m.: The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. EDT on Sept. 4, 2020:
There are 130,493 confirmed cases in Canada.
_ Quebec: 62,933 confirmed (including 5,767 deaths, 55,615 resolved)
_ Ontario: 42,686 confirmed (including 2,812 deaths, 38,625 resolved)
_ Alberta: 14,310 confirmed (including 242 deaths, 12,653 resolved)
_ British Columbia: 6,041 confirmed (including 210 deaths, 4,644 resolved)
_ Saskatchewan: 1,634 confirmed (including 24 deaths, 1,574 resolved)
_ Manitoba: 1,264 confirmed (including 16 deaths, 791 resolved)
_ Nova Scotia: 1,085 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,014 resolved)
_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 269 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 265 resolved)
_ New Brunswick: 192 confirmed (including 2 deaths, 186 resolved)
_ Prince Edward Island: 46 confirmed (including 44 resolved)
_ Yukon: 15 confirmed (including 15 resolved)
_ Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)
_ Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 5 resolved)
_ Nunavut: No confirmed cases
_ Total: 130,493 (0 presumptive, 130,493 confirmed including 9,141 deaths, 115,444 resolved)
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 4, 2020.
Thursday: British Columbia is at a critical point when it comes to a potential surge of COVID-19 infections, B.C.’s provincial health officer warned on Thursday.
Dr. Bonnie Henry said the province still has the ability to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases currently being seen, but people need to follow public health protocols. She urged people to avoid activities that are considered high-risk, such as spending time with groups of people they may not know, particularly ahead of the Labour Day long weekend.