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N.B. COVID-19 roundup: Non-medical masks now recommended for citizens in public

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New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health now recommends people wear non-medical masks in public places such as grocery stores and pharmacies to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Jennifer Russell said Monday that members of the general public can cover their faces with homemade masks or another type of covering to limit the chance of spreading the virus to others.

The change in position is based on the latest information about asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic patients, said Russell.

“The face covering prevents you from infecting somebody else,” she said. “It’s not to protect you from getting COVID-19 from somebody else.”

Over the weekend, Russell said chief medical officers of health across Canada, reviewed the latest evidence based on information around masks.

“We would like to reserve surgical masks for health-care providers. Period,” she said. 

Dr. Theresa Tam, the top doctor at the Public Health Agency of Canada, gave similiar advice Monday, saying Canadians can use non-medical masks in tandem with social distancing measures to limit the transmission of the deadly virus when out grocery shopping or at a pharmacy.

Dr. Gordon Dow, division head of infectious diseases at the Moncton Hospital, said the advice from public health is changing all the time.

“Our advice is changing with new evidence and so we are recommending people start wearing a mask in public,” Dow said.

Here is a roundup of other developments.

2 confirmed cases of COVID-19 announced Monday

There are two new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the province’s total to 103, chief medical officer Dr. Jennifer Russell told reporters during the briefing in Fredericton.

Both of the cases are in Zone 1, the Moncton region. One is in their 20s, the other is in their 30s.

Both are close contacts of a previously confirmed case, she said.

Seven patients are in hospital, including three in intensive care.

Although New Brunswick appears in many ways be faring better than other jurisdictions, with relatively low case numbers, relatively few hospital admissions, and community transmissions still relatively rare, “that is exactly why we cannot relax,” said Russell.

30 people have recovered from COVID-19

“We cannot lose vigilance,” she said, reiterating the importance of staying home as much as possible and maintaining a physical distance of six feet, or about two metres, when out.

“There have been too many instances of people flouting these rules, seeking loopholes or attending gatherings they presume are free of risk. No gathering can be free of risk right now.”

“The sacrifices we all make now will determine the severity of this outbreak.”

To date, 30 people have recovered.

Health Minister Ted Flemming said having the shipment of test kits arrive is ‘comforting.’ (Ed Hunter/CBC)

Of the 103 cases, 59 are travel-related, 33 are close contacts of confirmed cases, six cases are the result of community transmission and five cases remain under investigation.

Russell and Higgs did not hold daily news conferences over the weekend. Instead, the government sent out news releases.

5,000 test kits arrive

New Brunswick received 5,000 COVID-19 test kits from the federal government Monday, “which greatly relieved the pressure on testing,” said Health Minister Ted Flemming.

Shipments of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health-care workers, such as N95 masks, are also “on the way,” he told reporters Monday during the update in Fredericton.

The province has enough PPE “in normal times” to last us about 12 to 14 weeks, said Flemming.

“In situations like this, you go through them a little quicker, what is called ‘the burn rate,’ and we need to balance that so that we don’t use them up.

“I mean, if you’ve got a journey across the desert you don’t drink all your water in Day One. And that’s what we’re doing here — sensible, reasonable, balanced, putting patients and employees and health-care workers first.”

Last Thursday, Premier Blaine Higgs told CBC’s Power and Politics New Brunswick could run out of COVID-19 testing supplies within a week with ramped up testing and personal protective equipment within three or four weeks.

At that time, he said the province was conducting about 500 tests a day and planned to increase the number over the next few days to 600 or 700.

According to the government’s website, testing numbers since then has been:

  • Friday: 386
  • Saturday: 442
  • Sunday: 195
  • Monday: 265

Task force to lead response

A task force has been struck to oversee the health-care system’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Premier Blaine Higgs announced on Monday.

“It will allow us to react in real time,” he said.

The task force will include Dr. Gordon Dow, an infectious diseases specialist with the Horizon Health Network, Dr. Nicole LeBlanc, the regional chief of staff for the Vitalité Health Network, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell, and deputy health minister Gérald Richard, who will all work “hand in hand” with Health Minister Ted Flemming, he said.

It will have a “military-like command-and-control,” approach, said Flemming.

“We must stay, not on top of this virus, but ahead of it,” he said.

Province hopes to donate laptops to some students

As students return to a version of school today, the province is hoping to give laptops to those who don’t have access to a computer to do their class work online.

This comes after the province announced last week that public schools are expected to remain closed for the rest of the school year. Instead of regular classes, students now have to spend one to 2½ hours a day learning online. 

The Education Department recognized that moving to online learning for the rest of the school year would not be feasible for all students, Dominic Cardy, the minister, said Monday.

“Some don’t have access to high-speed internet,” he said. “And some don’t have access to the technology that would like them to connect to a cell network or to the internet.”

But acquiring and distributing technological devices has challenges.

“If someone calls me up and says they have 50 laptops, it’s very hard to go and get them,” he said during an interview with Information Morning Fredericton.

“So just even trying to work out those sorts of logistics will take more time and be more complicated than they would be under normal circumstances.”

Premier Blaine Higgs said the task force will have decision-making authority about the pandemic response. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

Cardy said anyone willing to donate technology or anyone with inquiries about and concerns about online learning should contact him at 506-238-5550 or via email at dominic.cardy@gnb.ca,

“I hope more than anything else that we can get back to a regular school system as quickly as possible and get back to the things that we used to talk about on how to make French immersion better and whether snow days are good or bad,” said Education Minister Dominic Cardy. 

“That would be kind of a blessing right now.”

Cardy said students who were not passing before schools closed must now work with their teacher to ensure they know the material before moving to the next grade. 

“If you were having difficulty at that point, now is a chance for you to work with your teacher to be able to get some assistance to be able to move along.”

Provincial exams and structured evaluations are also on hold. 

Here is a roundup of other developments.

Province doesn’t know when students will be able to hold graduation 

The province is working with universities and colleges to make sure post-secondary institutions accommodate students graduating from high school this year. 

“This is again, something that’s affecting the entire planet with nearly every single school student across the entire world at home right now, so the universities are well aware that they have to recognize that,” Education Minister Dominic Cardy said.

Over the weekend, Cardy posted a video online directed at Grade 12 students.

In the video, Cardy said the province doesn’t know how or when students will be able to celebrate. 

“It isn’t fair and there really isn’t no other way to put it.”

Cardy said he understands students are disappointed, but graduating high school is a major achievement and it will take time to work out the logistics of when students will be able to celebrate.

“A lot has changed in the world over the last few weeks. And right now public health and safety is everyone’s priority,” he said. 

“But that doesn’t change the fact that graduating from Grade 12 is an important milestone that deserves to be celebrated. 

Dairy farmers tossing product

New Brunswick dairy farmers say the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak is forcing them to throw out milk.

After a brief surge in demand for fluid milk soon after the first cases of COVID-19 appeared in Canada, the market has since collapsed.

“New Brunswick plans to throw out 670,000 litres of milk next week,” Marcel Daigle, co-owner of the Oscar Daigle and Sons Farm in Bake Brook, told Radio-Canada.

“In Canada, next week, we should throw out 12 million litres. That represents seven per cent of Canadian production.”

Demand plummeted dramatically with the closures of restaurants, stores and hotels, Daigle said. Plus, schools and daycares are no longer placing orders.

Daigle, a seventh generation New Brunswick farmer, said it’s impossible to completely stop his 160 cows from producing milk, but he can slow them down.

“Cows that were supposed to be dry or on a break before their next baby, they always have a two-month break,” he explained. “What we can do is extend that break and then pause it for three months or four months.”

Sussex group helps support truck drivers 

Volunteers in Sussex are doing what they can to make sure truck drivers are well fed so they can continue doing their jobs. 

Joanne Barton is a member of the group Helping Hearts of Sussex, which helps people in the area during these times of physical distancing.

Barton and others wanted to start a group after hearing many truckers were turned away from using washrooms and restaurants because of COVID-19 precautions. 

“When I started hearing about the fact that they couldn’t even find a washroom or they had no hot meal at all, even the Irving’s aren’t even allowed to sell the hot dogs,” Barton said. 

Why are we told to keep two arm lengths from others during the pandemic? Here’s a detailed explanation, with facts from Dr. Alfredo Américo Miroli, immunologist from the National University of Tucumán in Argentina. 2:21

The group is stationed at Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. behind the Four Corners Irving, just off the highway. 

Since most long-haul trucks are equipped with a microwave, the group is also providing drivers with soup they can reheat elsewhere on the road. 

“We’re home,” she said. “Let’s get together and do this.”

What to do if you have symptoms?

Symptoms of coronavirus include fever, cough or breathlessness. In this case, residents should:

  • Stay at home.

  • Immediately call Tele-Care 811.

  • Describe symptoms and travel history.

  • Follow instructions carefully.

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Supply Chain Canada, Alberta Institute Introduces the Supply Chain Workforce Marketplace

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The Province of Alberta is partnering with the Government of Canada to provide employment support programs and services. Now, Supply Chain Canada, with support from the Labour Market Partnerships Program, has stepped up for its community of professionals and for its country. The Supply Chain Workforce Marketplace as a free and open resource to help ensure visibility to the available supply chain talent across the country, and to help match this talent with opportunities. Whether a business is looking for supply chain talent, or a supply chain worker is willing and able to work, the Supply Chain Workforce Marketplace is the means through which they can tap into national resources. It has been designed to strengthen supply chains in Alberta by ensuring that all available talent can be rapidly utilized to support the country during this crisis, as we move into recovery.

The Supply Chain Workforce Marketplace is for members, partners, businesses, professionals, recruiters, those recently out of work, students and volunteers to connect and share opportunities with each other. Supply Chain Canada recognizes that it is only through committed support to our essential supply chain workers, businesses, profession and community at large that we can help achieve our collective well-being. As the voice of the supply chain community in Alberta, they take it as their responsibility to encourage these connections. It is how they keep Alberta moving in the months ahead.

Canada is blessed with having some of the most highly skilled supply chain professionals in the world. Due to the pandemic, however, there are many who are not currently employed. Our role at Supply Chain Canada is to ensure that those companies and organizations in need of talent are able to quickly and effectively find that talent,” said Christian Buhagiar, President and CEO, Supply Chain Canada.

Today, it is essential that businesses quickly find displaced supply chain talent so that their experiences and skills can be used for new and shifting supply chain demands across the country. The Supply Chain Workforce Marketplace is a way for Canadians to harness what is most representative of them: their talent.

Visit https://www.supplychaincanada.com/workforce-marketplace

About Supply Chain Canada
Supply Chain Canada™ is the voice of Canada’s supply chain, representing and serving more than 7,500 professionals across the country, as well as the wider supply chain community. It is a federation, with a national secretariat and 10 provincial/territorial Institutes. Its mission is to “provide leadership to the Canadian supply chain community, provide value to all members, and advance the profession.” Through its education, advocacy and resource-development initiatives, the association endeavours to advance its vision, to see that “Canadian supply chain professionals and organizations are recognized for leading innovation, global competitiveness and driving economic growth.” The association’s Supply Chain Management Professional™ (SCMP™) designation is Canada’s most-sought-after professional designation for those entering the field and advancing as leaders in supply chain.

SOURCE Supply Chain Canada

For further information: Pat Campbell, Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, Supply Chain Canada, [email protected], 416-977-7111 x3202

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San Ramon Valley district picks new superintendent

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DANVILLE — The San Ramon Valley Unified School District has looked to the north — Canada — in selecting its new superintendent.

John Malloy, the current director of education at the Toronto District School Board, was chosen as the finalist for the job after an extensive search process that included input from the community, educators and the search firm. The Toronto District School Board is the largest in Canada and serves more than 247,000 students in 583 schools throughout Toronto, according to the news release. San Ramon Valley Unified has an enrollment of 32,000.

Malloy was set to retire Nov. 1 from the Toronto job, according to the Toronto Sun, when he accepted the San Ramon position.

“I am privileged and excited to be the new superintendent of the San Ramon Valley Unified School District starting August 1,” Malloy said in a video statement. “I was drawn to the district because it was clear to me from afar that you are committed to students — their achievement, their well-being, holding high standards, supporting their learning. And that really resonated with me.”

Malloy, who has more than 30 years of experience in public and private education, will replace Superintendent Rick Schmitt, who announced his retirement April 3. Schmitt’s term runs through the end of June.

The school board will confirm a job offer to Malloy at an upcoming board meeting, with details on the contract length and salary at that time.

“We are excited to welcome Dr. Malloy to the San Ramon Valley Unified School District,” School Board President Greg Marvel said in a statement. “He quickly emerged as an outstanding candidate whose vast experience and strong leadership abilities will greatly benefit the students, families and employees of the SRVUSD, as we navigate a new path forward in education during these uncertain times.”

Malloy, who is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada, attended school and worked in the United States before going to Toronto as a teacher in the Toronto Catholic board, according to the Toronto Sun. He headed the Hamilton-Wentworth board and also worked as an assistant deputy minister in Ontario’s Ministry of Education before taking the helm in Toronto four years ago.

At its May 26 meeting, the San Ramon Valley school board — over the objections of nearly 300 people — approved 2.56 percent salary increase for its top management. The decision included boosting Superintendent Schmitt’s salary to $357,832, retroactively to July 1, 2019.

The San Ramon Valley Unified School District has 36 schools with more than 32,000 students in Alamo, Danville, Blackhawk, Diablo and San Ramon.

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‘I had to fight for it’

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For Mariam Abeid, education has always been an almighty struggle. 

Growing up in Kenya, she had to fight to complete her schooling in a community where girls’ education wasn’t a priority. She later married a Toronto man whose parents promised she could pursue her education in Canada – but she says they went back on their word and compelled her to become a full-time housewife.

Her husband later died, leaving Abeid – by then a mother of three –penniless and distraught. But Abeid refused to give up and is now graduating with a master’s degree in child studies and education from the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), and is looking forward to her first teaching job.

“I thank God that I applied to OISE and got in,” Abeid says. “I got an education there and I got my life back. I have more courage, more strength and more confidence in myself now.

“I don’t know how my life would have turned out now if I didn’t go there.”

It’s been a difficult journey for Abeid, who recalls how her life was turned upside-down when her husband died in 2010. “I was beyond myself,” she says. “I kept crying. I had no idea what I would do. I just kept hugging my kids and crying.” 

While still dealing with that tragedy, Abeid got word that her father in Kenya was ailing with a heart condition. She went to visit him, leaving her children behind at the insistence of her in-laws. What was supposed to be a short trip to Kenya turned into a year-and-a-half after her family refused to let her leave, and demanded she find a way to bring her kids over from Canada.

Eventually, Abeid managed to return to Canada, but says her in-laws – who were then living in an apartment that had been leased in Abeid’s name and that of her late husband – refused to return her children.

“I didn’t even know what the laws were in Canada. I was completely oblivious,” Abeid says. “I didn’t even know the country I lived in for 10 years because, after getting married, I was always at home. I had no friends and they prevented me from going out alone.”

U of T grad Mariam Abeid (second from left) and her three children (photo courtesy Mariam Abeid)

At one point, Abeid was forced to stay in a shelter in downtown Toronto. There, she met a lawyer who took up her case and, in 2012, helped her regain custody of her children and take back the apartment from her in-laws.

Abeid began to take her first steps toward a career in education at her kids’ school. She began volunteering and her talent in dealing with children was spotted by a teacher who suggested Abeid look into getting a diploma in early childhood education.

Abeid ran with the idea. She studied at Humber College before completing an undergraduate degree at the University of Guelph, where a professor recommended she pursue a master’s degree at OISE.

After attending an OISE open house and learning more about OISE and U of T, Abeid says she was sold – so much so that she applied to three different master’s programs at OISE, and didn’t bother applying to any other university.

“Everyone was like, ‘You’re crazy, you should apply elsewhere, too. Why are you only applying to one university?’” Abeid says. “But I said, ‘I don’t care, I’m okay with anything I get at OISE.”

She says the strength of OISE’s master’s in child studies and education stems from the way it blends research and practice.

“We learn about how children learn, what’s behind it, child-centred approaches and so on – and it’s very research-based, which I liked a lot,” she says. “Then with the [Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study] Lab School downstairs, I got to see how the theory was integrated into practice. I was seeing it take place in the school.

“How you prep students to be able to handle what you’re teaching them and what they’re learning, how to ask questions – all of that.”

At OISE, Abeid also found a culture of caring and support.

“It’s very intimate and it’s a small group. We get to know our teachers and they get to know us,” she says. “Most of the time, I was dealing with personal problems, but I could go knock on a professor’s door and they’d drop everything to listen to me, talk to me and sometimes even give me advice. It helped me so much.”

Abeid’s time at OISE was marked by a strong work ethic and perfectionist attitude – something she traces back to her childhood in Kenya and her desperation to go to school.

“I had to get good grades to show that it’s not a waste of time for a girl to go to school,” she says. “I had to fight to keep my grades up so I could justify going to school. I couldn’t even complain about anything because then they might say ‘Okay, if you don’t like school, stay at home,” she says.

“Even now [at OISE], when I had a serious family reason to leave class or get an extension on a paper, I had a lot of trouble doing it. The professors were so understanding but I still couldn’t bear it.

“I think it stuck with me. I don’t know what do – it’s a curse and a blessing at the same time.”

Michael Martins, a Grade 3 teacher who supervised Abeid’s internship in his classroom at the OISE lab school, described her as “an extraordinary individual” whose cheerful demeanour belied the personal challenges she was navigating, and whose positive attitude in the face of adversity was a source of inspiration.

“Mariam entered the Grade 3 classroom every day with a smile, ready to support children in any way possible,” says Martins. “Her ability to connect to students was observed each day as she brought a calm and understanding attitude to each interaction. She was incredibly reflective and always looked at each challenge as an opportunity to learn and improve.

“Not only have the obstacles to completing her master’s degree been immense, but she did all this while supporting three children at home on her own. Mariam’s story is an inspiration to anyone, as her enduring positivity is a model of what it means to be resilient and practise a life of gratitude.”

Abeid’s drive helped her secure financial support in the form of the OISE bursary program and a scholarship that supports exceptional U of T students who plan to pursue a career in primary or secondary teaching in Ontario.

She is now looking forward to starting her career as an assistant teacher at the OISE lab school, where she looks forward to teaching and improving her understanding of classroom dynamics.

Her goal is to eventually do a doctoral degree at OISE and conduct research on mental health and wellness in classrooms and schools. It’s a topic that’s close to Abeid’s heart, as she saw her daughter struggle with anxiety through her school years.

“I wasn’t happy about what I saw in my daughter’s school,” Abeid says. “When she was in elementary school, the teachers were afraid of her. One teacher told me she was scared when my child was having an episode and didn’t know what was wrong with her. In my mind, I thought, ‘You’re a teacher – if you see a child like that, you should be able to help.’ That saddened me a lot.

“As teachers, we sometimes forget that we have that kind of responsibility, and we think it’s only about taking care of what’s going on inside the classroom. We need to take a step in educating ourselves on mental health and wellness and how to help the kids.”

Abeid says her daughter – now 19 and preparing to start university – and two younger teenage sons are her biggest fans, and that she strives to convey to them and all young people to never take education for granted.

“I hope and pray that I’m an inspiration to them. If I can do this, I believe they can do much more,” Abeid says. “I tell them every day, ‘education is power.’ It levels you out with everyone else. It doesn’t matter if you’re wealthy or poor – if you have good education, you can go wherever you want and there is no limit.

“I know the value of education because I had to fight for it.”

As for what her own future will bring, Abeid is clear about one thing: Her journey of learning is only just getting started.

“I don’t want to stop. I don’t think learning ever stops, especially when you’re a teacher.”

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