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Moving companies experiencing surge in expats returning to N.L.

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Like many, Sarah and Bill Perry had their lives upended this year by the COVID-19 pandemic, along with a dramatic shock to the oil industry that left Bill without a job.

So they did something they’ve wanted to do for years: after more than two decades in Alberta, they left Calgary this summer and moved their family back home to Newfoundland and Labrador.

“With COVID and when my company decided they were moving out, that was it. It cemented our decision to move. Now we’re home. We’re here,” Bill Perry said during a recent telephone interview.

They’re now renting a home in Glovertown, where they both have deep roots and close family connections.

Their two children, ages 16 and 13, have started fresh in a new school, thousands of kilometres away from their old lives.

Brothers Bob and Lorne LeDrew prepare one of their trucks for another long-distance move. The owners of Bob LeDrew and Sons Moving Services in Mount Pearl say they have been especially busy in recent months moving Newfoundland and Labrador expatriates back home. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

They’ve left behind good careers and a city of 1.3 million for a future of uncertainty in a small town of just 2,000 citizens on Newfoundland’s northeast coast.

Not looking back

They understand they’ve taken a big risk, and are grateful for everything Calgary and the oil industry gave them, but are not looking back.

“We have way more security now coming back then when we left,” said Sarah. “We left with empty bank accounts and education. We’re coming back in a lot better financial situation and a lot of skill sets, and hoping to invest that in the community.”

Bill added, “I’m pretty excited about it. For all the years I’ve been away I’ve always talked about going home.”

The Perry family are part of the reason why two St. John’s-area moving companies are reporting an unusual trend: a strong uptick in the number of requests to relocate expatriates back to the province.

“Typically, my brother and I are used to dealing with a mass exodus out of Newfoundland this time of year, but this year it’s been totally different,” said Bob LeDrew, who co-owns Bob LeDrew and Sons Moving Services in Mount Pearl.

Bob LeDrew says the brothers’ company is seeing a notable increase in the number of calls from expat Newfoundlanders and Labradorians wanting to return to their home province from other places in Canada. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

In the past, LeDrew said, 60 per cent of his long-distance moves were away from the province. This year it’s reversed.

“I feel that most of them are coming back from Alberta and Ontario because they were laid off because of the COVID uncertainty and they’re coming back home here with their families,” said LeDrew, “and a lot of them probably have properties here and they feel safe here in Newfoundland as opposed to other places in the country.”

It’s a similar scenario for the owners of Five Star Moving in Conception Bay South, Jo Ann and Alfred Pike.

They’ve been in the moving business for 30 years, and have been overwhelmed with calls from customers interested in moving to the province.

“The amount of people moving back is unprecedented compared to what it has been over the past five, six, seven years,” said Jo Ann Pike.

Alfred and Jo Ann Pike own and operate Five Star Moving in Conception Bay South. Jo Ann says their company is so busy with moves into Newfoundland and Labrador that they’re actually turning away business. (Submitted by Jo Ann Pike)

A truck that would normally make one trip a month to Ontario is now load-and-go, Jo Ann added.

“If we had three, five tractor-trailers operating right now we could have filled every one of them week after week coming out of Ontario. We actually turned away a lot of business this year,” she said.

Both companies say they are booked with inbound moves until late in the fall.

‘COVID blip’ 

Meanwhile, those who study the province’s population trends are not surprised by what they’re calling a “COVID blip.”

With so much economic uncertainty in other parts of Canada, a very low prevalence of the virus in Newfoundland and Labrador, and the post-war baby boomer generation leaving the workforce, the fundamentals are in place for a slackening of the out-migration trend.

Robert Greenwood, director of Memorial University’s Harris Centre, says he doesn’t think what moving companies are seeing is a reversal of Newfoundland and Labrador’s population decline. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

But Robert Greenwood, director at Memorial University’s Harris Centre, which co-ordinates the school’s activities related to regional policy and development, is quick to caution against any notion that Newfoundland and Labrador’s population decline may be reversing.

“I think it’s a demographic baby boomer phenomenon, for the most part,” Greenwood said of the trend being noticed by moving companies.

Greenwood said a look at the data from last year is evidence that population decline projections are becoming reality, with the province experiencing a net loss of 4,500 people to interprovincial migration, the worst imbalance in more than a decade.

With major construction projects on the decline, the offshore oil industry buffeted by repeated setbacks since the pandemic hit, and the province’s financial health on life support, the economic outlook is bleak for a province that is projected to lose 90,000 residents by 2043.

So Greenwood plans to wait until he sees some official data from Statistics Canada before determining the significance of this latest trend.

What’s not being seen by the moving companies, said Greenwood, are the young people who are leaving after finishing university or being displaced from the oil industry.

In many cases, he said, this cohort do not require a moving truck because they are just starting out in life, and can stuff their belongings into the back of a car.

As for Sarah and Bill Perry, they’re more concerned right now about getting reacquainted with their home province, and possibly starting a business.

“There’s a long list of people from Glovertown that have worked really hard to make it what it is today. And that’s all we want is a chance to do the same,” said Sarah.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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Vancouver Coastal Health shirks B.C.’s policy to publish COVID-19 school exposure events

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Now that class is back in session, new cases of COVID-19 have begun to pop up at schools across the province.

To find out which schools have reported exposure events, all you have to do is go to your region’s public health website, where a list is regularly updated.

Unless you live in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.

That’s because Vancouver Coastal Health has not been following the same policy for notifying the public when there’s a COVID-19 exposure event within a school. Vancouver Coastal Health covers Vancouver, Richmond, the North Shore and Coast Garibaldi, Sea-to-Sky, Sunshine Coast, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola.

The other health authorities — Interior Health, Island Health, Fraser Health and Northern Health — have all stated they will update their online school exposures list with information on possible exposures within schools.

“We are providing this information so school staff, students and parents can be assured that public health is following up in their community and exposure risks are being mitigated to the best of our ability,” the four authorities say on their individual websites.

Vancouver Coastal Health has the same information written on its school exposures page, but it is currently showing no exposure events, even though it confirmed to CBC News it has seen cases in schools.

“We are aware of and will continue to see cases of COVID-19 occurring in staff and students,” the authority wrote Sunday in an email.

Provincewide approach

At her Monday COVID-19 health update, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said there is one provincewide publication approach for COVID-19 exposures in the province. However, she believes there has been a miscommunication with her colleagues at Vancouver Coastal Health.

“We expect that Vancouver Coastal would adhere to what everyone else is doing, as well as our provincial standard,” she said.

Cases in schools

Since students returned to classrooms about two weeks ago, there have been at least 20 COVID-19 exposures reported by health authorities and schools.

There have also been unconfirmed reports of cases at two West Vancouver schools, one Vancouver school and one Richmond school, all within the Vancouver Coastal Health region — but you won’t find that information listed on their website.

A physical distancing sign is pictured outside of Hastings Elementary prior to the first day of school Vancouver, British Columbia on Wednesday, September 2, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Vancouver Coastal Health said in a statement that when it comes to confirmed cases in schools or other settings, it notifies all people exposed in the most direct manner.

“This is more effective than public notifications and respects patient confidentiality,” it wrote in a statement.

“When we aren’t able to directly reach all people who may have been exposed in a timely manner, we use other means, including a letter or public notification.”

Vancouver district PAC calls for transparency

But that’s not sitting right with all families in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.

“I want to see it posted, sooner rather than later,” said Gordon Lau, chair of the Vancouver District Parent Advisory Council.

Lau, who has two children in Vancouver’s public education system, says he has no doubt that VCH is properly notifying everyone directly exposed. But he says it’s important that the information is posted to help build public trust in the health authority.

As well, he says it allows parents to stay informed.

“By allowing parents to see what is happening at the district level, we can better see what’s happening in the big picture and assess for our own families what the level of risk is in our community,” he said.

“When we see the absence of information on VCH’s website it is honestly disappointing and we are unable to do that assessment and understand exactly what is happening in our schools and we’re unable to make the choices we need to make for our families.”

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

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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

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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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