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Calgary votes to keep masks mandatory for now, next update in December



Masks will continue to remain mandatory in Calgary’s public spaces, council decided Monday.

Council voted 11-3 to maintain the current bylaw as is, with the next update to be heard on Dec. 14. The only votes against were Councillors Sean Chu, Jeromy Farkas, and Joe Magliocca.

On Aug. 1, the city implemented a bylaw mandating face coverings in indoor public spaces, in step with other cities like Toronto and Ottawa.

Dr. Raj Bhardwaj, an urgent care doctor in the city, told council Monday that as Alberta continues to have the highest number of cases per 100,000 people of any province in Canada, masks continue to be necessary. 

“Half-time is over, schools are open, the weather is cooling, days are shorter and winter is coming, and we’re still learning more about this virus,” he said. “It’s about protecting all of society from this illness.

“Ultimately this is still about risk versus benefit, the risks of mask use are small … the benefits of mask use are super clear.”

89% of Calgarians wear masks in indoor public spaces: survey

Council heard from administration that the majority of Calgarians support the bylaw, according to its research.

A city survey of 500 Calgarians conducted between Aug. 25 and 28 found that 88 per cent support the bylaw, 89 per cent wear a mask inside spaces like grocery stores or malls, and 95 per cent wear a mask on public transit.

That percentage of indoor mask use was up 34 per cent since the bylaw was implemented. 

“Calgarians are incredible, the way they have embraced the bylaw is amazing,” Calgary Emergency Management Agency Chief Tom Sampson said. 

City council saw this chart on Monday, which shows the number of active COVID-19 cases in Calgary before and after the mask bylaw was implemented. (City of Calgary)

There are currently 557 active COVID-19 cases in the city, and outbreaks at multiple locations, including long-term care centres, meat processing plants, a church, private gatherings, an Amazon warehouse, and schools.

That’s a rate of 36.3 cases per 100,000 people, but with a kernel of good news in the transmission rate — Sampson said the current RT value is .85, meaning each person with COVID-19 spreads the illness to less than one other person. 

Calgary is currently at the Level 2: Enhanced Watch step of its COVID-19 response plan. (City of Calgary)

Administration said since the bylaw was implemented, there have only been two cases where tickets were issued, and that it found no need to change the bylaw’s wording. However, Calgary Community Standards has received more than 600 reports of concerns through 311

Those who fail to wear a mask and don’t meet exemptions can be fined $50, but the city has said it has focused on education, not enforcement. 

When will bylaw be revoked?

Coun. Jeromy Farkas questioned how to judge the efficacy of the bylaw and under what circumstances it should be repealed, something Sampson said is hard to definitely say without a double-blind, randomized controlled trial.

“If I wear a mask, I might be a person who is more conscious about touching my face,” Sampson said, adding that the majority of medical evidence points toward masks being effective. 

Council can call a special meeting at any time to repeal the bylaw, and administration said reasons for repeal could range from a vaccine becoming available to transmission and infection rates dropping low enough that medical experts agree masks are no longer required.

“If I were to look to the future, that [reason for repeal] would likely be a vaccine,” said Sampson. 

Bhardwaj pointed to how much still isn’t known about masks and the virus, like emerging evidence that masks could grant some level of immunity as they reduce the number of infectious particles a wearer is exposed to.

“As a council we simply have to put our personal opinions aside and listen to the experts,” Coun. Jeff Davison said. 

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Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Monday




The latest:

Provinces are reimposing restrictions on gatherings as health officials worry that the new increases in COVID-19 cases could lead to an equivalent spike in hospital patients or deaths in the coming weeks. 

As of 6 p.m. ET on Monday, Canada had 145,415 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 125,714 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,268.

Over the past week, as Premier Doug Ford and his government slapped new restrictions on private gatherings, Ontario reported an average of 335 new confirmed COVID-19 infections daily. That’s triple the pace of the last week of August. 

On Monday, Ford claimed that Ontario was “doing more testing … than every province combined in the entire country.”

WATCH | Ontario doing ‘fabulous’ on COVID-19 testing, Ford says:

Premier Doug Ford claims Ontario is now doing more daily COVID-19 tests than all of the other provinces combined. 0:53

So far, the rise in hospitalizations is nowhere near as steep as it was. There were 63 patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ontario hospitals as of Sunday. The hospitalization rate hit its low ebb in the third week of August, with a daily average of 38 patients in beds around the province.

Ontario reported an additional 425 cases of COVID-19 on Monday, the most on any single day in three and a half months.

Consistent with recent trends, the majority of new infections were concentrated in three public health units. Toronto saw 175, while Peel confirmed 84 and Ottawa 60. 

However, hospitalizations and deaths are what epidemiologists call “lagging indicators” of the impact of a pandemic: you don’t see those numbers rising until well after the infections were transmitted. 

“It’s just unfortunately a matter of time,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, infectious disease physician at Toronto General Hospital. 

In Alberta, three units at a local hospital declared a COVID-19 outbreak over the weekend.

On Monday the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said 14 patients and four staff members at Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary had tested positive. 

Alberta Health Services (AHS) said all at-risk patients are being offered testing and that contact tracing is ongoing.

“While we appreciate it may be difficult for some, visitors to the units are limited to only end of life situations until further notice,” AHS said in a statement.

On Monday Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said 14 patients and four staff members at Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary had tested positive. (Alberta Health Services)

Meanwhile in British Columbia, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announced a series of new COVID-19 measures over the weekend that are enforceable with a fine.

The expanded list of provincial health orders, mostly centred around the restaurant and bar industry, comes after the province ordered the closure of banquet halls and nightclubs earlier this month.

Operators and organizers who are caught violating the health orders could be fined $2,000, while patrons could face a $200 ticket.

WATCH | Your questions about COVID-19 testing:

Quebec’s COVID-19 situation has become so serious the province is setting its new Covid Alert system to its second highest level in several regions, including Montreal and Quebec City, just weeks after it was implemented. Officials say they have no patience for protocol breakers and warn that if people don’t co-operate, a full lockdown is next. 1:45

Quebec reported 462 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and 427 new cases on Saturday. The province hasn’t seen similar daily increases since late May. Hospitalizations have been increasing at a slower rate and are now at 138, up from 124 a week ago.

At a news conference on Sunday evening, Health Minister Christian Dubé announced several new public health rules for residents in areas that have been deemed orange zones under the province’s COVID-19 alert system. 

The maximum number of people allowed at a private gathering has been reduced from 10 to six. (Though exceptions will be made for large families.) 

Bars and restaurants will stop serving alcohol at 11 p.m. and will close at midnight. A maximum of six people will be allowed per table.

A maximum of 25 people will be allowed to take part in events like weddings, barbecues or religious services. In settings that involve sitting and little talking, such as movie theatres or concert halls, the current 250-person limit remains in place.

What’s happening around the rest of Canada

A student at Riverside Public School in Elmira, Ont., has tested positive for COVID-19, the Waterloo Region District School Board says.

The student was last in the building on Friday, the board said in a statement posted to its website on Sunday. The school is being cleaned, and it’s expected staff and students will be able to return on Monday morning.

The case is the third one in a school in Waterloo Region. There is also a student case at St. Anne Catholic Elementary School in Cambridge, Ont., and a staff member at Edna Staebler Public School in Waterloo tested positive for the virus.

An employee in Toronto’s parks, forestry and recreation division has tested positive for COVID-19, and a number of staff members who may have had contact with the infected person have been advised to self-isolate, a union local says.

The employee worked at Falstaff Community Centre, near Jane Street and Wilson Avenue, according to Dave Mitchell, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 79. The local represents about 20,000 city inside workers.

Mitchell said the employee received the positive test result on Sept. 11, and the union local was informed on Sept. 12. 

Some members have told the union local that they want more information about the case, he said. There is a larger group, outside of the employee’s close contacts, who were not informed of the case by Toronto Public Health, but found out through word of mouth, he said. 

Race-based data is confirming what some on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic have been saying for months — that the novel coronavirus affects communities of colour at a disproportionate rate.

According to early data from Ottawa Public Health (OPH), 66 per cent of people who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 in Ottawa are racialized, a term OPH is using to refer to Black people and others from non-white backgrounds.

The term does not include people who identify as Indigenous.

According to data from Ottawa Public Health, 66 per cent of people who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 in Ottawa are Black people or others from non-white backgrounds. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

“We know that there are systemic inequities for these communities,” said Naini Cloutier, executive director of the Somerset West Community Health Centre, in an interview with CBC. 

“With COVID, the cracks are becoming bigger and you’re seeing the very negative impact.”

Only 25 per cent of Ottawa residents identified as being a visible minority in the 2016 census, according to Statistics Canada.

What’s happening around the world

According to Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases stands at more than 31 million. More than 960,800 people have died, while 21.2 million have recovered.

Health officials in the United Kingdom have issued a dire warning as the number of coronavirus cases continue to increase.

According to week-old data, new cases are rising by at least 6,000 per day with hospital admissions doubling every eight days.

Chris Whitty, the U.K.’s chief medical officer, and Patrick Vallance, its chief scientific adviser, cautioned that if left unrestricted, the epidemic would reach 50,000 new cases per day by mid-October.

“If this continued along the path … the number of deaths directly from COVID … will continue to rise, potentially on an exponential curve,” Whitty said. “That means doubling and doubling and doubling again, and you can quickly move from really quite small numbers to really very large numbers.”

WATCH | U.K. cases doubling roughly every 7 days:

Doctors answer viewer questions about COVID-19 testing in Canada, including how effective it is and who should be tested. 4:58

The United Kingdom already has the biggest official COVID-19 death toll in Europe and the fifth largest in the world.

Meanwhile, Scotland first minister Nicola Sturgeon says there is a need to move “sharply” now to curtail the explosive growth of the coronavirus.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, plus four additional areas, have all been put under restrictions preventing people from entering those areas without a reasonable reason, such as education or work. People are also only allowed to meet those they don’t live with outdoors.

“I need to be absolutely straight with people,” Sturgeon said. “Across Scotland, additional restrictions will almost certainly be put in place … over the next couple of days.” 

WATCH | Scotland sees tougher COVID-19 restrictions on the way:

Experts in the United Kingdom are issuing a dire warning about the number of COVID-19 cases in the coming months. Fifty-thousand new cases per day are possible by mid-October, leading to 200 deaths per day a month later. 2:46

A total of 156 countries have joined the global COVAX scheme intended to ensure fair distribution of supplies of future vaccines against COVID-19, an alliance led by the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.

The goal of COVAX is to deliver two billion vaccine doses around the world by the end of 2021, with health-care workers prioritized initially, followed by the most vulnerable 20 per cent of people in every participating country, regardless of income level.

While many lower-income nations are seeking assistance via COVAX, some richer countries had been reticent in confirming their intentions. Some of those who have secured their own future supplies through bilateral deals, including the United States, do not plan to join COVAX.

All remaining virus restrictions will be lifted across much of New Zealand from late Monday with the exception of the largest city, Auckland, which will continue to have some restrictions for at least another 16 days.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the announcement Monday after meeting with top lawmakers.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Monday that most of the COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted from the country. (Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The nation of five million reimposed some restrictions last month after an Auckland outbreak, which now appears to be under control.

Lebanon registered a record 1,006 cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, the government announced Sunday, amid a sharp increase in infections and deaths due to the coronavirus.

Health Minister Hamad Hassan recommended a total lockdown for two weeks to stem the alarming rise in daily detected infections, but authorities will find it difficult difficult to impose another lockdown amid an unprecedented economic collapse.

Czech Health Minister Adam Vojtech resigned on Monday following criticism of his handling of the pandemic after a surge in cases.

WATCH | Epidemiologist on people’s own power to change the course of COVID-19:

Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, says there is a need to move ‘sharply’ now to curtail the explosive growth of the coronavirus. 1:04

Before the start of the summer, the government lifted almost all restrictions imposed during the first wave of the pandemic. The number of infections has doubled this month and has grown at the second fastest rate in Europe in recent weeks, behind Spain.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis thanked Vojtech for his work in a Twitter message. Vojtech had been heavily criticized over the new wave of infections, although some opposition politicians saw him as a scapegoat for the government.

“The prime minister is more responsible as he strongly and incompetently interferes with Health Ministry work,” Marian Jurecka, chairman of the opposition Christian Democrats, wrote on Twitter.

A migrant woman washes her face at a communal standpipe behind barbed wire at a quarantine area in the new temporary camp near Mytilene on the Greek island of Lesbos, as more than 200 people were diagnosed with coronavirus. (Manolis Lagoutaris/AFP/Getty Images)

Greece’s government spokesperson says more than 200 people have tested positive for the coronavirus among thousands of asylum-seekers admitted to a new camp on the island of Lesbos after the previous camp burned down.

Speaking during a regular briefing Monday, Stelios Petsas said 7,064 people who entered the new camp at Kara Tepe had been tested, and 243 of them received positive results.

The average age of those confirmed positive was 24, and most were asymptomatic, Petsas said. A further 160 people, mainly police and administrative staff who had come into contact with the migrants were tested, and were all negative.

Petsas said the positive cases from Lesbos would be added to Greece’s official coronavirus figures on Monday. Health authorities release daily statistics of the virus’s spread every evening.

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Manitoba earmarks $12M for schools to buy masks, other PPE




The Manitoba government is setting aside $12 million from previously announced funding for schools to purchase masks and other personal protective equipment.

“Our government is providing Manitoba schools with the financial resources they need to support their students and staff,” Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen said in a news release.

“Meeting the recommended health provisions requires financial support and we are ensuring that support is available to schools. We know that teachers, students and staff are adjusting to a different and sometimes difficult school environment and Manitobans are grateful for all of their efforts.”

The majority of the news release Monday restated much of what the province has already announced — that the Safe Schools funding consists of $100 million, which includes $48 million that school divisions saved from their regular budgets when in-class learning was suspended in March. The province added $52 million for schools to draw from to pay for COVID-19-related expenses.

The $12 million for masks will be set aside from the pool of $52 million, Goertzen said. Students enrolment numbers and estimated funding allotments can be viewed here.

Another $8 million from that pool will be available “to address serious and urgent health and safety measures over and above the school division allocation,” while the remaining $32 million is there for school divisions and independent schools to access for other needs.

The amount they can get is limited to a per-pupil maximum, Goertzen said. 

The province will also make available the $85.4 million in federal funds announced last month for education, but not until the other two pots of money are used up.

Schools can use the money for enhanced cleaning and sanitization, including more supplies and custodial staffing, increased bus transportation capacity, technology-related costs for items such as remote learning, and ensuring substitute teachers and educational staff are available to keep schools open and children learning, the news release says.

Immunocompromised students and their families, students in isolation and students in remote areas may be candidates for remote learning, Goertzen said.

“Manitoba will be working closely with divisions, schools and stakeholders to assess where additional financial contributions are needed and will invest in order to meet these needs to ensure learning continues, while maintaining a focus on health, wellness and student achievement,” Goertzen said.

“We are continuing with the plan to focus this funding on the public health measures needed to keep students and staff as safe as possible while learning.”

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The teacher is sick. Now what? Here’s what head of N.W.T. Teachers’ Association says




Week three for many teachers of being back in the classroom just wrapped up in the N.W.T.

Amid the new protocols, the reality when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic means teachers might have to spend time out of the classroom if they get sick.

And in a region where substitute teachers can be far and few, what happens when a teacher can’t come to class for days in a row?

Matthew Miller, president of the N.W.T. Teachers’ Association, says there’s a few things that could happen.

Whereas in the past, if teachers got the sniffles they “toughed it out,” Miller says now that can’t always be the case.

For example, when a teacher begins to feel sick at work with at least one major symptom or two minor symptoms of COVID-19, they have to ensure they have proper personal protective equipment on and head home immediately. Then they must contact public health who will let the teacher know what to do next.

In the case that teachers need to stay home, Miller says a substitute would be called in. 

Some of our teachers have not left the N.W.T. since December of 2019.– Matthew Miller, N.W.T. Teachers’ Association

This option does present some challenges however, as the availability of substitute teachers varies from community to community, and with each year, he said.

“Sometimes there’s lots of subs and in other years it’s really hard to track people down,” Miller said.

“I can see a higher demand for substitutes this year as teachers won’t be toughing it out and are required to self-screen or remain at home until public health has approved them.” 

This year, he says it’s likely substitutes will be booked up in advance. In the past he said there have been regions that hire full time substitute teachers knowing that the demand is usually high.

“If there are people out there looking for work, this is a great opportunity to get into the schools,” Miller said.

Sir John Franklin High School in Yellowknife. Miller, the head of the teachers’ association says substitutes are often in high demand, so if a teacher gets sick, the school may need to use other resources. (Graham Shishkov/CBC)

Support staff may need to step in

Miller said the intent is to keep schools open with students and teachers having face-to-face lessons as much as possible. Though he says there could be a point where schools can no longer operate, it would take a lot of steps before it gets to that.

For instance, if no substitutes are available, then schools would likely use “internal coverage,” where other teachers in the school would cover classes during their assigned prep period. Support staff or specialty teachers could also take on the role of teacher if need be.

Miller says some of the classes could be shifted to a blended or online learning style during the time their teachers are at home. It’s also possible that the grades would be prioritized, where some of the older students could be sent home with assigned work.

I can see a higher demand for substitutes this year as teachers won’t be toughing it out.– Matthew Miller, N.W.T. Teachers’ Association

Then, Miller says there’s also breaks that need to be considered.

He says the association is getting steady calls from teachers looking for answers on sick leave, special leave and whether they can travel over the Christmas and spring breaks.

“There’s a number of our educators that will want to travel to see family and friends. Some of our teachers have not left the N.W.T. since December of 2019,” he said.

“Waiting two years to see family and friends is difficult.”

The association has been working closely with labour relations, superintendents and the Department of Education Culture and Employment, to make sure that teachers are paid for sick leave, he said.

For now, Miller says there’s a mixture of feelings in the schools, though overall, he hears it’s a positive learning environment.

As for students, Miller says the guidelines have been taken seriously and as a result, kids have been understanding and co-operative of the expectations at school. 

For sick students, most schools are asking parents to monitor kids for either one “major symptom” of COVID-19 — fever, shortness of breath, or a dry cough — or two more common “minor symptoms.” Those include aches, sore throat, runny nose, diarrhea, vomiting, “general unease,” or a loss of smell, taste or appetite.

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