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.
9:53 a.m.: The seven-day rolling average for daily new coronavirus cases in the U.S. rose over the past two weeks from 52,350 to more than 74,180.
That’s according to data through Wednesday from Johns Hopkins University, marking a return to levels not seen since the summer surge. The rolling average for daily new deaths rose over the past two weeks from 724 to 787.
Positive test rates have been rising in 45 states, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Fifteen states have positive test rates of 10% or higher, considered an indicator of widespread transmission.
Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Adm. Brett Giroir said earlier his week the proof of the uptick is the rising numbers of hospitalizations and deaths.
The U.S. leads the world with 8.9 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 228,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic
9:06 a.m.: The global travel and tourism industry is on course to lose 174 million jobs this year if current restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus remain in place, a leading industry group warned Friday.
While alarming, the projection from the World Travel & Tourism Council was lower than previously expected, largely because of a strong recovery in domestic travel in China and rebounds in other countries. In June, the council warned that there could be 197 million job losses worldwide in a sector that many nations are hugely reliant on economically.
Restrictions on travel imposed when the pandemic erupted this year effectively banned flights from abroad and closed down the hospitality sectors in many countries.
9:00 a.m.: Wages and benefits for U.S. workers grew slowly this summer for the second straight quarter, as employers sought to hold the line on pay gains in the midst of the pandemic.
U.S. workers’ total compensation rose 0.5% in the July-September quarter, the Labor Department said Friday, the same as in the April-June quarter. That’s down from 0.8% in the first three months of the year.
For the year ending in September, wages and benefits increased 2.4%, the slowest pace in three years. The data comes from the Labor Department’s Employment Cost Index, which measures pay changes for workers that keep their jobs. The data isn’t affected by the mass layoffs in the spring.
8:54 a.m.: Statistics Canada says the pace of economic growth slowed in August as real gross domestic product grew 1.2 per cent, compared with a 3.1 per cent rise in July.
The agency says overall economic activity was still about five per cent below the pre-pandemic level in February.
8:40 a.m.: Electricity rates are set to rise this weekend in Ontario, with the average customer seeing a nearly two per cent increase to their hydro bill compared to before the pandemic.
Earlier this month, the Ontario Energy Board announced new prices for households and small businesses that take effect on Sunday, Nov. 1.
That’s also the day the provincial government’s COVID-19 rate relief plan, which has been in place since late March, comes to an end.
The relief plan had meant about five million customers subject to so-called “time-of-use” pricing, which varies depending on the day, had instead been paying a flat rate.
That rate was initially 10.1 cents per kilowatt hour, increasing to 12.8 cents in June — well below peak-hour pricing before the pandemic.
On Sunday, those customers will return to time-of-use billing unless they opt out, with prices varying from 10.5 cents per kilowatt hour during off-peak hours up to 21.7 cents during on-peak times.
8:37 a.m.: Like battle-hardened veterans, New York City hospitals and nursing homes are bracing for a potential resurgence of coronavirus patients, drawing on lessons learned in the spring when the outbreak brought the nation’s largest city to its knees.
The new playbook derives from the apocalyptic days of March and April, when testing and resources were scarce, emergency rooms overflowed, and funeral homes stacked corpses in refrigerated trailers.
Those insights, however hard won, make it far less likely that the city’s hospitals would collapse under a second wave of COVID-19, health care leaders said.
Even without a vaccine, doctors are touting increasingly effective coronavirus treatments, three-month supplies of personal protective equipment and contingency staffing plans.
Similar preparations are underway at New York’s hard hit nursing homes, which accounted for a staggering percentage of the state’s coronavirus deaths.
7:55 a.m.: Japan’s coronavirus cases have topped 100,000, nine months after the first case was found in mid-January, the health ministry said Friday.
The country confirmed 808 new cases on Thursday, bringing the cumulative COVID-19 cases to 100,334, including 712 people who were on a cruise ship that was docked off a Japanese port earlier this year.
About one-third of the cases come from Tokyo, where 221 cases were confirmed Thursday, bringing the prefectural total to 30,677, including 453 deaths. Nationwide, Japan has more than 1,700 deaths.
Experts say Japan has so far managed to avoid “explosive” infections as in Europe and the U.S. without enforcing lockdowns, most likely thanks to the common use of face masks and disinfectant, as well as other common preventive measures including social distancing.
7:31 a.m.: German authorities have added almost all Austria and Italy to the list of high-risk areas for COVID-19.
Travellers returning to Germany from countries or regions on the list, which is updated weekly, have to go into 14-day quarantine and take a test for the coronavirus.
Those with negative test results can end their quarantines.
Critics have pointed out that the threshold of 50 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants per week, which is the main criteria for determining which countries appear on the list, has now been passed in much of Germany itself.
Germany’s disease control agency reported Friday that the country saw another new daily record number of confirmed cases, with 18,681. The new cases take the country’s total in the pandemic to almost half a million.
6:45 a.m. The European economy grew by an unexpectedly large 12.7 per cent in the third quarter as companies reopened after severe coronavirus lockdowns, but the rebound is being overshadowed by worries that growing numbers of infections will cause a new downturn in the final months of the year.
The upturn in the July-September quarter — and the worries about what’s ahead — echoed the situation in the United States, where re-openings led to strong third-quarter recovery but didn’t dispel fears for the winter months.
The European rebound, reflected in figures released Friday, was the largest increase since statistics started being kept in 1995. It followed an 11.8 per cent contraction in the second quarter in the 19 European Union member countries that use the euro currency. The April-June period was when restrictions on activities and gatherings were most severe during the first wave of the pandemic. Many economists had expected a rebound of around 10 per cent.
6:35 a.m. Customs agents in the southern Chinese city of Hong Kong have seized 100,000 counterfeit face masks and arrested one person in what the government called the largest operation of its kind on record.
The masks were set to be shipped overseas and had a market value of almost $400,000, the government’s Information Services Department reported Friday.
The masks were seized at a storehouse in Hong Kong on Wednesday after agents received a tip-off, the department said, leading to a further raid on a trading company where a 71-year-old manager was arrested
“Initial investigations revealed that unscrupulous merchants intended to transship the batch of masks overseas for sale and profit. Customs is looking into the source of the face masks involved in the case. Samples have also been sent to a laboratory for safety testing,” the department said in a news release.
6:30 a.m. Fans living in Japan who bought tickets for the postponed Tokyo Olympics have been guaranteed refunds, the local organizing committee said Friday.
This does not apply to fans who have purchased tickets outside Japan through so-called Authorized Ticket Resellers appointed by national Olympic committees. Many have already set terms for refunds, which vary by nation or territory.
Fans in Japan who already know they cannot use their tickets next year can get their money back by applying online for refunds during the period Nov. 10-30. The Paralympic period is Dec. 1-21.
Organizers also said that refunds would be made if limited seating were available at venues because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
6:16 a.m. A multi-state coronavirus surge in the countdown to Election Day has exposed a clear split between President Donald Trump’s bullish embrace of a return to normalcy and urgent public warnings from the government’s top health officials.
It’s the opposite of what usually happens in a public health crisis, because political leaders tend to repeat and amplify the recommendations of their health experts, not short-circuit them. “It’s extremely unusual for there to be simultaneous contrary messaging,” said John Auerbach, who heads the nonpartisan Trust for America’s Health.
The Republican president and the health officials appear to be moving farther apart since White House chief of staff Mark Meadows declared last Sunday “we’re not going to control the pandemic.”
Since then, Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Adm. Brett Giroir has done a round of interviews warning that the country’s situation is “tenuous” but that Americans can indeed control the virus by practicing what he calls the “3W’s” — watching your distance from others, wearing a mask and frequently washing your hands.
6 a.m. As COVID-19 case numbers continue to creep up in much of the country, some parents are feeling spooked about letting their children trick-or-treat on Halloween.
Should they carry on with the door-to-door tradition, or find a different way to celebrate the eerie annual holiday?
While some infectious disease pediatricians say now is not the time for trick-or-treating, especially in COVID hot spots, others contend that the outdoor nature of the activity makes it fairly low-risk.
Dr. Anna Banerji, an associate professor at the University of Toronto’s School of Public Health, says trick-or-treating should “probably be cancelled this year.’’
“We’ve … shut down gyms and restaurants (in parts of Ontario and Quebec) to try to control COVID,’’ she said. “So I just don’t think it’s a good idea.’’
Areas with few COVID cases will be safer for trick-or-treaters, Banerji says, but having contact with multiple people, regardless of how brief those interactions are, can carry higher risk in cities with larger concentrations of the virus.
Banerji says it will be tough to keep kids — excited to see their dressed-up counterparts — from congregating on driveways and sidewalks, which will make it harder for parents accompanying them to maintain a safe distance as well.
5:51 a.m. The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, which led months of protests against the small Balkan state’s pro-Western government that was voted out of power at elections in August, has died in hospital after contracting the coronavirus, the church said Friday.
The condition of Bishop Amfilohije deteriorated on Thursday after he developed heavy breathing and chest pains, doctors said. He had been taken to a hospital in the capital, Podgorica, earlier in October after testing positive for the virus.
The church said the 82-year-old died Friday from pneumonia caused by COVID-19.
Ahead of a parliamentary election in August, followers of the Serbian Church led by Amfilohije staged months of protests against a property law adopted by the parliament in December.
The pro-Russian church argued that the law allows the Montenegrin state to confiscate its property as a prelude to setting up a separate Montenegrin church. The government denied that claim.
The protests, some held in defiance of a ban on public gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic, managed to galvanize the opposition, which narrowly won the vote.
5:30 a.m. Canada’s failure to meet its immigration targets due to the pandemic is offering some relief in terms of rent affordability. But it won’t negatively impact the Canadian detached housing market — at least in the near term, say real estate experts and economists.
As Ottawa prepares to announce its new immigration targets in the coming days, real estate company Royal LePage released a statement on Thursday urging the government to continue pro-immigration policies
“Sustained and robust immigration levels are vital for the Canadian economy and the long-term health of the real estate market,” it said.
Read the full story from the Star’s Tess Kalinowski
5:27 a.m. Premier Doug Ford says he’s looking at a more “surgical” approach to COVID-19 restrictions with the latest computer models predicting Ontario will have between 800 and 1,200 new infections daily for the next four weeks.
“We are seeing continued growth,” Dr. Dirk Huyer, the provincial chief of outbreak response, told a briefing on the modelling Thursday as the province saw an overnight jump of 100 cases to 934 — the fourth-highest of the pandemic after a record of 1,042 was set Sunday.
“There is some slowing of that growth…it speaks to the efforts everybody is making,” Huyer added.
Read the full story from the Star’s Rob Ferguson
5:26 a.m. As spooky season reaches its climax in a particularly frightening year, some historians argue the COVID-19 pandemic offers an opportunity to explore a different side of Halloween.
The holiday has no fixed meaning and has been celebrated differently over the centuries, so there’s a deep well of traditions to draw from — including some that honour the dead, said Nick Rogers, a professor at York University who wrote the book on the history of Halloween.
The holiday is linked to Mexico’s Day of the Dead, which has some of Halloween’s celebratory spirit but is also a day to remember loved ones who have died.
“Halloween is about everything you want to avoid in a pandemic. It’s about scaring us. It’s about risk-taking. It’s about inversion,” he said. “…In a way, Day of the Dead is a much better holiday for addressing these things.”
Officials across the country have said that those who want to celebrate Halloween will need to make sacrifices — of varying degrees, depending on location — in order to keep their loved ones safe.
Those in some COVID-19 hot spots have been urged to forego trick-or-treating altogether, while others in regions with few cases are being told to keep their parties small.
For instance, in Quebec — Canada’s COVID-19 epicentre — children will be permitted to trick-or-treat with members of their own household, but adults can’t celebrate in groups.
“This year, Halloween is only for kids,” Quebec Premier Francois Legault said earlier in the month.
British Columbia’s top doctor has also ruled out massive Halloween bashes, saying families need to keep gatherings to their immediate households and their “safe six,” though trick-or-treating is still a go.
Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador have given trick-or-treating the green light as well, so long as people keep a physical distance from those not in their household.
Meanwhile, Ontario and New Brunswick are taking a regional approach to holiday regulations, barring trick-or-treating in hot spots.
5:24 a.m. Canada’s tradition of welcoming newcomers with open arms is being challenged in an era of closed borders.
How great that challenge is will become apparent today as the federal Liberals release a status update on immigration to Canada so far this year and a plan for how many they intend to admit next year.
The plan for 2020 had been to settle around 341,000 new permanent residents, a goal in keeping with ongoing increases to immigration levels for the last several years.
This year’s number, however, was released literally on the eve of Canada beginning to cut itself entirely off from the outside world to control the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The day after, Parliament would close its doors, the week after the border with the U.S. slammed shut to all but essential workers and travel restrictions reduced air travel to Canada so sharply that airports became ghost towns.
5:23 a.m. More federal financial support is on its way to help Indigenous people and communities cope with the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to announce today additional funding, targeted specifically at child care, education and infrastructure.
The new money is on top of more than $2.2 billion the federal government has already allocated to help Indigenous and northern communities get through the health crisis.
Among other things, the government has committed $685 million for the Indigenous Communities Support Fund, which includes funding to address food insecurity, education and other support for children.
It is spending another $650 million to help Indigenous communities respond to the pandemic and for income support.
And it has devoted $122 million to help ensure a safe return to schools on reserves.
5:20 a.m. As the global COVID-19 pandemic carries on with its deadly toll, most economic and business forecasts assume there will be an effective vaccine against the virus, likely by the middle of next year.
But what if there isn’t?
If those forecasts are wrong, everything from economic growth to stock and bond prices could be affected, economists and market strategists say. Industries which are already struggling could be put into a permanent tailspin. Stock prices, especially in the U.S., would be set for a tumble. Local government tax revenues could also take a hit, as vacancies rise and the value of commercial real estate falls.
Read the full story from the Star’s Josh Rubin
Read Thursday’s rolling file