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N.W.T. education leaders, minister recommend closing schools for rest of academic year



Northwest Territories education leaders and the education minister are recommending that schools close for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The recommendation was made because of “significant health concerns posed by COVID-19” and the importance of practising social distancing, as advised by the chief public health officer, reads a news release sent out by the government on Wednesday evening. 

Education leaders have shared the recommendation with district education authorities, the bodies that hold the power, under the Education Act, to close N.W.T. Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12 schools. The release says school closures will be announced by their respective education councils. 

“While the immediate priority is not to provide lessons or give instruction it is necessary to identify and secure essential services for supporting students and communities,” reads the release. 

It goes on to say education leaders “share the strong interest of parents and communities” in learning opportunities while schools are closed, and that the Northwest Territories Teachers’ Association says teachers are prepared to help students however they can.

Education Minister R.J. Simpson said the COVID-19 situation has ‘evolved substantially’ since his previous recommendation to close schools until after Easter. (Mario De Ciccio Radio-Canada/CBC)

The recommendation to shutter schools for the rest of the year was made after Simpson met via teleconference with the Northwest Territories Teachers’ Association and chairs of the Tłı̨chǫ Community Services Agency, Dettah and Ndilo District Education Authorities, the Commission scolaire francophone des Territoires du Nord-Ouest, the Beaufort Delta Education Council, the Dehcho Divisional Education Council, the South Slave Divisional Education Council, the Sahtu Divisional Education Council, Yellowknife Education District No. 1 and Yellowknife Catholic Schools.

COVID-19 situation ‘evolved substantially’

R.J. Simpson, the minister of education, culture and employment, had previously recommended that all schools close until after Easter. On Wednesday, Simpson said the COVID-19 situation has since “evolved substantially.” 

“As new public health advisories and orders are put in place, including the declaration of a public health emergency, the closure of the N.W.T. border and the cancellation of all gatherings, we must continue to make difficult decisions to protect the health and safety of our residents,” he stated in the news release.

“I am grateful to the N.W.T. education leaders for their dedication and commitment to ensuring the well-being of our students, staff and communities in deciding to close schools for the remainder of the school year.”

In the best interests of health and safety, that call had to be made.– Mark Harris, chair of  the Hay River District Education Authority

The board of Yellowknife Education District No. 1 voted on Tuesday to close schools for the rest of the school year. The board of trustees for the Commission scolaire francophone des T.N.-O says  École Allain St-Cyr and École Boréale will also be closed until the end of June. 

The Hay River District Education Authority has also voted to close schools. 

“In the best interests of health and safety, that call had to be made so that we could make some decisions going forward to introduce a platform to families and students as to how learning and education will follow from now until the end of June,” said board chair Mark Harris.

Many school employees self-isolating

Last Saturday, Dr. Kami Kandola, the N.W.T.’s chief public health officer, ordered the closure of the territory’s border with limited exceptions. All N.W.T. residents returning to the territory are required to self-isolate for 14 days.

Because the order came down while many teachers and staff were out of the territory for spring break, a significant number of school employees are now self-isolating, reads the release.

The board of Yellowknife Education District No. 1 voted on Tuesday to close schools for the rest of the school year. (Donna Lee/CBC)

It’s unclear what the closures will mean for students, particularly those in Grade 12.

The release says the education department is meeting daily with N.W.T. education superintendents and the teachers’ association to discuss, among other issues, the “continuity of educational programing.” It says plans are being adjusted as new information comes in from the chief public health officer.

The government says the department is looking at what other provinces are doing, and specifically at Alberta, since the N.W.T.’s curriculum is largely based on Alberta’s.

The government’s news release says all options for continuing education are being explored.

It also says Simpson is having weekly calls with other Canadian education ministers to talk about how they can make sure students who are supposed to graduate from high school this year can move on to post-secondary institutions.

The government adds that it recognizes that meal programs, counselling and other health and wellness programs are essential to communities, and that it’s working to figure out who will be involved in keeping these programs running while schools are closed.

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Six Toronto long-term-care homes report COVID-19 outbreaks




Read The Star’s live coverage of the novel coronavirus pandemic here. This story is no longer updating.

10:45 p.m.: COVID-19 is surging in Toronto long-term-care homes, with public health reporting three new deaths as tests confirm the virus is now in 15 nursing homes, with outbreaks in six.

According to Toronto Public Health list of facilities reporting outbreaks includes:

  • Seven Oaks, a City of Toronto home, with 23 confirmed cases including 14 residents and nine staff;
  • St. Clair O’Connor long-term care, with six confirmed cases among three residents and three staff;
  • Extendicare Bayview, with four confirmed cases among two residents and two staff;
  • West Park Health Care Centre with four cases among two residents and two staff;
  • Chartwell Gibson with three confirmed cases among residents;

  • The Rekai Centre’s Sherbourne Place with one death and three confirmed cases;

10:28 p.m.: In a press release Tuesday evening, the union representing the bulk of TTC workers said a sixth transit agency employee had tested positive for the virus. The latest confirmed case is a subway fare collector. Earlier in the day the union announced a bus driver had tested positive.

9:30 p.m.: The provincial government has approved new temporary powers for provincial offences officers. People being charged with an offence under the Emergency Managemeent and Civil Protection Act are now required to identify themselves if asked by a provincial offences officer, which includes police officers, First Nations constables, special constables and municipal by-law enforcement officers, according to a press release.

“Failure to comply with an emergency order could carry punishments of up to one-year imprisonment or a fine of up to $100,000 for an individual, $500,000 for a director of a corporation, or $10,000,000 for a corporation itself if a provincial offences officer charges the individual by issuing a summons,” the statement said.

These penalties apply in addition to the penalties for breaching other emergency orders.

9:15 p.m.: B.C. Premier John Horgan made a direct address to the province tonight, reassuring people that the government has a plan to weather the COVID-19 crisis.

Horgan says the province will announce a plan on Wednesday to make sure health-care workers have the equipment and supplies they need to stay safe, including getting them reuseable medical garments.

In the five-minute address, he asked people to stick with the advice of public health officials by staying at home as much as possible and to continue keeping a physical distance from others.

He says the province will get through the crisis as he announced he is extending the state of emergency through the end of April 14.

8:15 p.m.: A highly placed doctor who is assisting in provincial decision making on the pandemic told the Star priority testing should be expanded to all residents of long-term care, all health-care workers no matter what setting they work in, and to hospital patients.

“I think we need to be thinking very aggressively about testing all health-care workers, especially in long-term care and acute care, and patients and residents,” said the source who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to give media interviews.

“Now that the majority of transmission is community-based, and we continue to debate whether or not there is asymptomatic transmission, the riskiest groups should be tested and they are health-care workers and health-care patents,” he continued.

Asked about the limited number of testing swabs available, the source said these groups should go to the front of the line and be made a priority.

6:41 p.m.: An outbreak of COVID-19 has been declared at Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga. Four patients on an in-patient unit at the hospital have confirmed positive for COVID-19 and an outbreak has been declared, according to a statement released by Trillium Health Partners.

“Working closely with Peel Public Health THP has taken immediate precautions to protect patients and staff,” the statement said.

Under the guidance of THP Infection Prevention and Control, Credit Valley said the unit was placed on appropriate precautionary measures, and all steps have been taken to quickly manage and identify any individuals with potential exposure to the virus.

The four patients identified as having positive COVID-19 tests are being safely relocated to a unit exclusively caring for patients with COVID-19, according to CVH. All other patients on the unit are being actively monitored for symptoms associated with COVID-19.

6:34 p.m.: There are 8,548 confirmed and presumptive cases in Canada.

Quebec: 4,162 confirmed (including 31 deaths, 1 resolved)

Ontario: 1,966 confirmed (including 33 deaths, 534 resolved)

British Columbia: 970 confirmed (including 19 deaths, 396 resolved)

Alberta: 754 confirmed (including 9 deaths, 120 resolved)

Saskatchewan: 184 confirmed (including 2 deaths, 21 resolved)

Newfoundland and Labrador: 152 confirmed (including 1 death, 7 resolved)

Nova Scotia: 147 confirmed (including 10 resolved)

Manitoba: 91 confirmed (including 1 death, 4 resolved), 12 presumptive

New Brunswick: 70 confirmed (including 9 resolved)

Prince Edward Island: 21 confirmed (including 1 resolved)

Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed

Yukon: 5 confirmed

Northwest Territories: 1 confirmed

Nunavut: No confirmed cases

Total: 8,548 (12 presumptive, 8,536 confirmed including 96 deaths, 1,103 resolved)

6:10 p.m.: British Columbia is reporting five more deaths related to COVID-19.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, says 24 people in total have now died in B.C. She says another 43 people have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases to 1,013.

Henry says 507 people have recovered.

5:42 p.m.: An international media freedom watchdog says the autocratic ex-Soviet nation of Turkmenistan has banned the media from using the word “coronavirus.”

Reporters Without Borders said Tuesday the word also has been removed from health information brochures distributed in schools, hospitals and workplaces. The Central Asian nation that neighbours Iran so far has reported no cases of the new coronavirus. Iran has reported more than 44,000 cases.

5:07 p.m.: The TSX capped its worst first quarter since at least the financial crisis more than a decade ago on an upswing caused by a rise in the energy sector.

The key sector rose by 15.5 per cent with Canadian Natural Resources, Suncor Energy Inc. and Cenovus Energy Inc. gaining 22.5, 18.4 and 17.8 per cent respectively in heavy trading. Crude oil prices have dropped about 66 per cent in the quarter, falling from 61.18 (U.S.) per barrel on Dec. 31.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 340.25 points or 2.6 per cent Tuesday to 13,378.75.

5:03 p.m.: According to Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, there are 793 cases of COVID-19 infections in Toronto, including 628 confirmed cases and 165 that are considered probable cases by Toronto Public Health. There are 65 cases in hospital and 33 in intensive care. Eight people have died.

4:45 p.m.: The Ontario union representing provincial correctional staff say guards refused to work their shift at an Ottawa jail Tuesday over the lack of screening for COVID-19 symptoms.

Ryan Graham of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union says the entire morning shift of correctional workers at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre refused to enter the institution.

He says the union has been pushing the Ministry of the Solicitor General to implement screening measures for signs of COVID-19 for anyone going into the province’s jails.

4:30 p.m.: Pride Toronto responded to the cancellation of the just-cancelled June 26-28 festival. “Pride is essential for our communities, and it is much more than simply a series of events. Pride was born out of protest and continues as a political movement to this day,” Pride Toronto organizers said in a statement following Mayor John Tory’s announcement.

Organizers are set to find alternative ways of connecting Toronto’s LGBT2Q+ community.

We are grateful to those sponsors and granting partners who have confirmed their dedication in standing behind us during this difficult time, without which we would not be able to continue with alternative planning,” said Amber Moyle, Pride Toronto’s director of sponsorship and strategy.

“Pride Toronto is continuing to follow direction from Toronto Public Health and the City of Toronto,” said the group’s director of operations, Bobby MacPherson. “We know this decision will come as an immense disappointment to many, but our community is creative and resilient. We will continue to find ways to celebrate and be proud.”

Other events scheduled to take place by the end of June include The Hot Docs Festival, the Inside Out Film Festival, Canadian Music Week and the Toronto Jazz Festival.

3:59 p.m.: Toronto Mayor John Tory announces the cancellation of all city-led events through June 30. The cancellation includes Pride Toronto festival, which was scheduled for June 26-28. And city services, like schools, will remain closed throughout April, including city daycare.

3:50 p.m.: There are 8,476 confirmed and presumptive cases in Canada. The latest:

Quebec: 4,162 confirmed (including 31 deaths, 1 resolved)

Ontario: 1,966 confirmed (including 33 deaths, 534 resolved)

British Columbia: 970 confirmed (including 19 deaths, 396 resolved)

Alberta: 690 confirmed (including 8 deaths, 94 resolved)

Saskatchewan: 176 confirmed (including 2 deaths, 3 resolved)

Newfoundland and Labrador: 152 confirmed (including 1 death, 7 resolved)

Nova Scotia: 147 confirmed (including 10 resolved)

Manitoba: 91 confirmed (including 1 death, 4 resolved), 12 presumptive

New Brunswick: 70 confirmed (including 9 resolved)

Prince Edward Island: 21 confirmed (including 1 resolved)

Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed

Yukon: 5 confirmed

Northwest Territories: 1 confirmed

Nunavut: No confirmed cases

Total: 8,476 (12 presumptive, 8,464 confirmed including 95 deaths, 1,059 resolved)

3:49 p.m.: U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the world faces the most challenging crisis since the Second World War, confronting a pandemic threatening people in every country, one that will bring a recession “that probably has no parallel in the recent past.”

There is also a risk that the combination of the disease and its economic impact will contribute to “enhanced instability, enhanced unrest, and enhanced conflict,” the U.N. chief said at the launch of a report on the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19.

3:45 p.m.: The wife of a northern Alberta man who died this week of complications due to COVID-19 says he will be remembered as a loving father and someone who cared for youth in his community. Shawn Auger, who was 34, died Monday morning in hospital after he was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus on March 16.

He is the province’s youngest victim of COVID-19 to date. His wife, 35-year-old Jennifer Auger, says the virus particularly affected him because he had asthma.

The father of three was a youth care worker at the Youth Assessment Centre in High Prairie.

3:28 p.m.: The FBI issued a warning to the public about the “hijacking” of online classrooms and teleconferences after it received reports of disturbances by people shouting racist and threatening language and displaying hate messages.

Concerns about online security have been rising as many in North America have moved to online education as school buildings have closed to try to stem the spread of a novel coronavirus that has stopped public life around the world. Schools have rushed to put together online lessons and programs, sometimes without strict security filters.

3:08 p.m.: More than 300 New Yorkers died from the coronavirus in the last 24 hours, a sombre-sounding Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday.

Deaths in the state topped 1,500 by Tuesday, according to Cuomo. A sombre-sounding Cuomo said the New York City region continues to be a hotspot for the virus, accounting for the lion’s share of the state’s 75,795 confirmed cases. The outbreak hit close to home for the governor, who spoke of his brother and “best friend,” CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, testing positive for the disease.

2:35 p.m.: The COVID-19 death toll linked to Pinecrest Nursing Home has climbed to 13 after three more residents died. The Bobcaygeon long-term care facility is the scee of the worst outbreak facility in Ontario, with 12 residents plus a resident’s wife who have died there.

2:27 p.m.: The Manitoba government is reporting seven new probable or confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the provincial total to 103.

Public health officials also say a staff member at Selkirk Regional Health Centre has tested positive for COVID-19. They say the person worked in the hospital’s emergency department and medicine ward from March 19 to 23.

Officials are investigating this case and following up with close contacts among staff and patients.

2:20 p.m.: Three more Toronto police officers have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of service employees who have contracted the virus to five.

2:15 p.m.: There are 8,469 confirmed and presumptive cases in Canada as of 1:56 p.m.

  • Quebec: 4,162 confirmed (including 31 deaths, 1 resolved)
  • Ontario: 1,966 confirmed (including 33 deaths, 534 resolved)
  • British Columbia: 970 confirmed (including 19 deaths, 396 resolved)
  • Alberta: 690 confirmed (including 8 deaths, 94 resolved)
  • Saskatchewan: 176 confirmed (including 2 deaths, 3 resolved)
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 152 confirmed (including 1 death, 7 resolved)
  • Nova Scotia: 147 confirmed (including 10 resolved)
  • Manitoba: 83 confirmed (including 1 death, 2 resolved), 13 presumptive
  • New Brunswick: 70 confirmed (including 9 resolved)
  • Prince Edward Island: 21 confirmed (including 1 resolved)
  • Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed
  • Northwest Territories: 1 confirmed
  • Nunavut: No confirmed cases

Total: 8,469 (13 presumptive, 8,456 confirmed including 95 deaths, 1,057 resolved)

1:50 p.m.: There are two new cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick, bringing the provincial total to 70. Chief medical health officer Dr. Jennifer Russell says one case is travel related, and the other is a contact of a previous case.

She says there are three cases of community transmission so far in the province, and nine people who were positive have recovered. Russell warns against people becoming complacent.

1:40 p.m.: Premier Doug Ford denies report that Ontario took a portion of its medical supplies to send to Quebec.

1:29 p.m.: TTC workers union says a bus operator has tested positive for COVID-19. The driver hadn’t been on the job since March 14 and is now in hospital. This is the fifth TTC worker who has been confirmed to have COVID-19.

1:25 pm.: Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce says there will be “final report cards for all students” regardless of how long schools are closed.

1:21 p.m.: Quebec Premier François Legault is warning the province could run out of some kinds of medical supplies in three to seven days.

He made the announcement as the total number of cases in Quebec rose to 4,162, which is an increase of 732 from Monday.

There were also six more deaths due to COVID-19, bringing the province’s death toll to 31.

Legault said he hopes new shipments of medical supplies will arrive in coming days, and thanked Ontario Premier Doug Ford for agreeing to send Quebec some equipment.

1:20 p.m.: Ford said Ontario schools will remain closed until May 1 for teachers and May 4 for students. He says he is prepared to push that later if need be.

1:10 p.m.: Starting Wednesday, Toronto police say they will be waiving tickets for the majority of drivers who don’t change from one side of the street to the other where parking regulations demand it. Police say enforcement will only take place when necessary to ensure the safe flow of traffic.“The public’s cooperation is requested in complying with change-over parking regulations by moving their vehicles to the permitted side of the street when it is safe to do so,” police said in a statement.

12:56 p.m.: Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says the government is monitoring closely the spread of COVID-19 among health professionals who live in Canada but work in the U.S.

Reports suggest many of the cases in Windsor, Ont., are a result of cross-border travel for essential work.

That’s the only reason people are currently allowed to cross the border.

Freeland says stepped up measures have been put in place at the hospitals on the U.S. and Canadian side of the border.

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12:44 p.m.: There are three new cases of COVID-19 on Prince Edward Island, bringing the provincial total to 21. Chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison says all three new cases are people who had travelled internationally and are self-isolating. She says a man in Summerside has been fined $1,000 for failing to self-isolate.

12:43 p.m.: Newfoundland and Labrador has announced four more positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the provincial total to 152.

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the chief medical officers of health, says all the cases are in the Eastern Health authority. She says 11 people have been hospitalized due to the virus and two are in intensive care.

Municipal and privately-owned parks and campgrounds have been ordered to close but Fitzgerald says people should still exercise outside while keeping their distance from others.

12:30 p.m.: Ontario’s regional public health units were reporting 2,193 confirmed or presumptive cases of COVID-19, with 45 deaths, as of 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

This count is based on the 34 regional units’ public tallies and press releases, posted to their websites.

The numbers differ from what the province reported in its daily update at 10:30 a.m. Public Health Ontario says its daily case count is dated to 4 p.m. the previous day.

The Southwestern Public Health Unit reported its first death Tuesday morning, an Elgin County woman in her 80s.

12:27 p.m.: The federal government has purchased 157 million surgical masks and more than 60 million N95 masks, used by health-care professional to stop the spread of COVID-19.

There are also 1,570 ventilators on order, with officials looking to secure 4,000 more.

Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand laid out the state of the government’s bulk buy efforts today.

12:24 p.m.: Canada’s chief public health officer says there have now been 236,000 tests in Canada for COVID-19.

Dr. Theresa Tam says 3.5 per cent are confirmed positive, and more than 93 per cent confirmed negative. She says adults under 40 represent about 10 per cent of hospitalizations.

Tam says the greatest concern at the moment is the introduction and spread of the virus in places where high-risk populations reside, including long-term care homes, remote First Nations and prisons.

12:20 p.m.: The Manitoba government is closing elementary, junior high and high schools indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The province originally planned a three-week shutdown that was to end April 13th.

But the education minister now says schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year unless health officials say they can be reopened. Kelvin Goertzen says assignments and learning will continue as teachers conduct their work remotely.

12:09 p.m.: Nova Scotia is reporting 20 new cases of COVID-19 for a total of 147 confirmed cases in the province.

Health officials say most cases are connected to travel or a known case, with one case the result of transmission within the community.

The affected individuals range in age from under 10 to over 80.

Public Heath officials say four people are currently in hospital, while 10 have now recovered.

11:25 a.m.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government is moving forward with the private sector on agreements to purchase equipment for the response to COVID-19.

He says production of ventilators, masks and test kits is now underway.

One company, Thornhill Medical, says it is making 500 ventilators and hopes to have them ready within weeks.

Trudeau says the government has signed letters of intent with five other firms to bolster the national stockpiles of badly needed equipment.

The government is also allocating $2 billion to purchase personal protective equipment for health care professionals.

11:02 a.m.: Schools in Ontario to remain closed until at least May, government sources tell the Star.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce is set to make an announcement today at 1 p.m. with Premier Doug Ford and the colleges and universities minister.

Earlier this month, Lecce ordered schools closed for two weeks following March break, and the premier said last week schools will not be reopening April 6.

Lecce is also expected to announce an e-learning plan for the province’s students during COVID-19 school closures

10:55 a.m.: In Ontario’s latest report, 534 cases have been deemed “resolved.” Of the 1,966 patients who tested positive, 980 are listed as male and 974 are female. In addition, 46 patients are under 19 years old; 421 are 65 or over; while 1,496 are between 19 and 64 years of age. The province says 51,629 patients have been tested overall.

10:40 a.m.: Ontario is reporting 260 more COVID-19 cases (or an increase of about 15 per cent from the previous day) to bring the provincial total to 1,966. The province says that 33 have died, an increase of 10 from Monday although the old number didn’t include the reported deaths at the Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon.

There are 4,280 cases under investigation, as Ontario adds more testing capacity and clears a backlog that was once nearly 11,000.

Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health said that as of Monday afternoon, 100 people in intensive care units were confirmed to have COVID-19 and 61 of them were on ventilators.

10:15 a.m.: The federal government is waiving the monthly rent paid by airport authorities to Ottawa for the rest of the year as revenues plummet amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau says the measure will provide support worth up to $331.4 million in ground lease rents from March through December.

The move applies to 21 airport authorities as well as PortsToronto, which operates Billy Bishop airport and pays a charge to the federal government.

Morneau says the air transportation sector has “suffered tremendously,” as airlines cancel the vast majority of their flights and lay off thousands of staff.

9:05 a.m.: The Ontario government is temporarily deferring payments for Ontario Student Assistance Program loans and making online learning, including year-end exams, available to post-secondary institutions. A six-month interest-free moratorium on loan repayments until Sept. 30.

8:45 a.m.: Officials in Florida are meeting later today to decide whether to let the infection-plagued cruise ship MS Zaandam dock after more than two weeks at sea.

The Zaandam and its sister ship the MS Rotterdam have about 2,700 passengers and crew on board, including 248 Canadians.

The two ships were stranded off the coast of Panama after the novel coronavirus made its way on board.

7:25 a.m.: Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce are expected to reveal Ontario’s COVID-19 home-schooling plans Tuesday at 1 p.m. Ontario schools will not reopen next week as originally planned.

The government has been looking at ways to keep course work going while school closures continue, including through online classes.

The director of education at the province’s largest school board told parents Monday night they are developing a plan to connect teachers to students and “restore teacher-led learning to the greatest extent possible as of April 6.”

TDSB’s John Molloy says staff have been trying to determine the devices and internet access families have in the meantime.

6:57 a.m.: Spain recorded on Tuesday 849 new coronavirus deaths, the highest number since the pandemic hit the southern European country, according to the country’s health ministry.

With both new infections and deaths up around 11 per cent each, to a total of 94,417 confirmed cases and 8,189 fatalities, Spain is seeing a slight rebound in the outbreak.

That’s despite an overall timid slowdown in its spread for the past week, allowing authorities to focus on avoiding the collapse of the health system. At least one-third of Spain’s 17 regions were already at their limit of capacity in terms of intensive care unit usage, while new beds are being added in hotels, exhibition and sports centres across the country.

At least 14 per cent of those infected are much needed medical personnel. Many of them lack proper protective gear.

5:43 a.m.: The TTC has begun identifying bus routes that are “very busy” during the morning rush hour, on Twitter. The agency is asking riders to consider travelling outside of these peak times, unless their trip is essential, to encourage physical distancing.

Four TTC employees have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Monday, the most recent being a bus maintenance employee.

4:01 a.m.: The union representing Canada Post employees is asking Canadians to disinfect their mail boxes to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

And the post office itself is asking Canadians with dogs to keep their doors closed during deliveries, where possible.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers says daily washing and disinfecting of letter boxes, along with handrails and door knobs, will help keep mail carriers safe.

CUPW national president Jan Simpson says Canadians are relying on the postal system to keep packages and letters flowing to them as they self-isolate in their homes.

And she says they need to know their mail is safe.

With so many people home during the day now, Canada Post says the number of interactions between postal carriers and dogs has been increasing, making physical distancing difficult and increasing the risk of dog bites.

Four postal workers in Canada have tested positive for COVID-19 infection: one in Calgary, two in St. John’s and one in North Bay, Ont.

4:01 a.m.: Canadians will get more details today of the massive emergency wage subsidy program launched by the federal government — including the price tag.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Small Business Minister Mary Ng are to hold a news conference to provide details of how the program will work and how much of a dent it will put in federal books that have already plunged deep into the red as the government scrambles to cushion the economic and health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program was not included in the $107-billion emergency aid package approved last week by Parliament; the wage subsidy was announced the next day.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau filled in some of the details Monday.

Businesses, regardless of size, whose revenues have decreased by at least 30 per cent because of the COVID-19 pandemic, are eligible for the subsidy, which is to be backdated to March 15. It will cover 75 per cent of each employee’s wages, up to $58,700, amounting to up to $847 a week.

Trudeau said Morneau and Ng would provide more details today, “including detailed costings and expectations.”

4:01 a.m.: New York’s governor issued an urgent appeal for medical volunteers amid a “staggering” number of deaths from the coronavirus, as he and health officials warned that the crisis unfolding in New York City is just a preview of what other communities across the U.S. could soon face.

“Please come help us in New York now,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said as the state’s death toll climbed by more than 250 in a single day to a total of more than 1,200 victims, most of them in the city. He said an additional 1 million health care workers are needed to tackle the crisis.

“We’ve lost over 1,000 New Yorkers,” Cuomo said. “To me, we’re beyond staggering already. We’ve reached staggering.”

Even before the governor’s appeal, close to 80,000 former nurses, doctors and other professionals in New York were stepping up to volunteer, and a Navy hospital ship, also sent to the city after 9-11, had arrived with 1,000 beds to relieve pressure on overwhelmed hospitals.

“Whatever it is that they need, I’m willing to do,” said Jerry Kops, a musician and former nurse whose tour with the show Blue Man Group was abruptly halted by the outbreak.

4:01 a.m.: India is adding more resources to tackle its increase in coronavirus cases by announcing that private hospitals may be requisitioned to help treat virus patients, and turning railway cars and a motor racing circuit into makeshift quarantine facilities.

The steps were taken after a nationwide lockdown announced last week by Prime Minister Narendra Modi led to a mass exodus of migrant workers from cities to their villages, often on foot and without food and water, raising fears that the virus may have reached to the countryside, where health care facilities are limited.

Indian health officials have confirmed more than 1,000 cases of the coronavirus, including 29 deaths.

Experts say that local spreading is inevitable in a country where tens of millions of people live in dense urban areas with irregular access to clean water, and that the exodus of the migrants will burden the already strained health system.

4 a.m.: There are 7,448 confirmed and presumptive cases in Canada.

  • Quebec: 3,430 confirmed (including 25 deaths, 1 resolved)
  • Ontario: 1,706 confirmed (including 33 deaths, 431 resolved)
  • British Columbia: 970 confirmed (including 19 deaths, 396 resolved)
  • Alberta: 690 confirmed (including 8 deaths, 94 resolved)
  • Saskatchewan: 176 confirmed (including 2 deaths, 3 resolved)
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 148 confirmed (including 1 death, 7 resolved)
  • Nova Scotia: 127 confirmed (including 10 resolved)
  • Manitoba: 83 confirmed (including 1 death, 2 resolved), 13 presumptive
  • New Brunswick: 68 confirmed (including 2 resolved)
  • Prince Edward Island: 18 confirmed (including 1 death)
  • Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed
  • Northwest Territories: 1 confirmed
  • Nunavut: No confirmed cases

  • Total: 7,448 (13 presumptive, 7,435 confirmed including 90 deaths, 946 resolved)

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A ‘really weird new normal’: Parents, students grapple with learning at home amid pandemic




As Canadian parents and guardians face the stark reality of ongoing school closures this spring because of COVID-19, an uneven patchwork of provincial plans has developed to try to implement remote learning for a vast range of students.

When Alberta announced that its schools would close indefinitely in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, Danielle Fortin admits she considered the decision “pretty drastic.”

Now, with Canada’s coronavirus cases having risen dramatically, the Red Deer, Alta.-based mother of two appreciates that decision — along with the speed with which her province enacted a “learning at home” framework.

“Now that we’re in it” and seeing that physical isolation measures are likely to continue further into the spring, “it makes a lot of sense,” said Fortin, whose kids, ages eight and 11, are tapping into online resources and connecting with others via video chat.

“It’s going to take a lot of time for families and kids and parents to adjust to this really weird new normal we have going on,” said Fortin, who added that “it wouldn’t make sense to rush back.”

Scarlett Fortin, 11, studies at home in Red Deer, Alta. (Submitted by Danielle Fortin)

Just a few provinces over, however, Janet Chisholm has been frustrated with what she sees as Ontario’s slow progress at implementing its own plan for at-home learning.

Ontario, which includes the largest school board in Canada (the Toronto District School Board), broke down details of its learning-at-home plan on Tuesday — “but I think it’s a bit late,” said Chisholm.

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce “used the phrase ‘lightning speed’ twice and I would say we’ve been off school for awhile now. I wouldn’t describe the response as lightning speed…. We’ve been having to teach our kids or manage on our own for the last week and a half already.”

An earlier learning portal Ontario set up was not what the mom of two, whose kids are eight and 10, had expected. Chisholm called it “a non-plan” that simply listed online links and “didn’t do a very good job of giving us guidance on how to be teachers.

“We’re not educators and we shouldn’t be expected to earn a degree in teaching overnight and try to develop curriculum on our own.”

Janet Chisholm helps her two sons with schoolwork at their home in Toronto. (Submitted by Janet Chisholm)

While the downtown Toronto resident acknowledges the prudence of Ontario extending its public school closures for at least another month, “we’d love to see our kids back to school May 4,” she said.

“I know other provinces have already pulled the plug on the year and I think I’d be disappointed if they did that.”

While some provincial governments have cancelled in-class learning indefinitely, others are taking more of a wait-and-see approach and thus far keeping school doors shuttered into May. 

Some provinces have issued specific objectives (including delivering age-specific hours of work on targeted subject matter), directed teachers to reach out to students and families (online or by phone) or released learn-at-home resources. Others say they’re still working out exactly how to continue delivering their curriculum to students.

The challenge of equity

One major challenge is ensuring that any at-home resources or curriculum that’s being shared is available to all students, some of whom may not have access to the internet, digital devices or adult support at home.

It’s vital for educators to consider equity and make sure students across the socioeconomic divide have access to what they need — especially now, said Matt Fabbri, a public high school teacher in Winnipeg.

“A lot of our kids are dealing with mental health issues and even that point of just having regular interaction with their teachers — sometimes that’s the only regular thing that they have every day,” said Fabbri, a teacher at Nelson McIntyre Collegiate who says getting in touch with and staying in communication with students has been a priority.

“It’s this time to really check in with our kids and not ask ‘Hey, how’s your homework going?’ but just ask ‘Hey, how are you doing? Are you functioning? Are you talking to people or are you holed up in your house with nobody to talk to?’ “

WATCH | Talking to kids about the coronavirus pandemic:

How to talk to your kids about the COVID-19 pandemic. 2:01

‘We are teachers and we can manage’

Rather than dwelling on grades, his immediate concern is for his students to be able to learn and demonstrate what they’ve learned. He and his colleagues broke their process down to three concepts: encourage students to work on existing skills, check out new material they will eventually learn when school returns and explore for themselves.

“As a teacher, I’m not concerned about all students reaching a common percentage point, but more concerned with their own personal growth curves. Are they moving up and to the right?”

For instance, for younger students up to Grade 8, “any type of engaged learning is going to be great for them,” Fabbri said.

Winnipeg public school teacher Matt Fabbri is connecting with students in a variety of ways, including via online video, amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Submitted by Matt Fabbri)

Meanwhile, for high schoolers, he said, parents and guardians should “engage them in what they’re learning right now. ‘Hey, what documentary did you watch today? What article did you read today? What new thing did you learn today?’ And don’t accept the monosyllabic answers.”

Fabbri and his colleagues are also trying to take advantage of technology. One is streaming an hour-long phys ed class on Instagram daily, while another streams a chemistry class live from his home office. Others have switched things up to offer classes and Monday-to-Friday “office hours” via apps like Zoom.

As Fabbri juggles teaching with “trying to prepare emails and learn Zoom and [make] phone calls touching base with kids and parents,” he’s also overseeing three children of his own (ages four, eight and 10) learning at home.

“We are teachers and we can manage,” he said. “We’re going to figure out ways to help our students manage through this. That’s our job.”

‘Things are changing in front of our eyes’

Though the coronavirus pandemic has forced this unprecedented moment of change, it could lead to higher-quality e-learning in Canada, said Marina Milner-Bolotin, an associate professor of education at the University of British Columbia.

“Education is such a huge field and it has a huge inertia. Now we can see things are changing in front of our eyes,” said Milner-Bolotin, who has taught online for more than 10 years.

“I see one silver lining here: That people will start taking technology much more seriously after this crisis.”

Noting that she’s had pushback from colleagues who call online learning impersonal, she foresees that in the coming weeks, “amazing teachers who know how to teach online … will support the teachers who are hesitant.”

Marina Milner-Bolotin, associate professor in education at the University of British Columbia, believes this period could lead to a blossoming for online education in Canada. (CBC)

The Vancouver-based educator underlines, however, that effective e-learning doesn’t mean links, websites and “dumping a lot of resources on parents.” It requires real support, with provincial education ministers giving teachers specific online education training and bringing in experts for further development.

“It’s going to be a boom for online education,” Milner-Bolotin said, pointing out that e-learning can connect far-flung students with specialized teachers and extend more courses to a wider swath of kids.

“A lot of people will realize the power of online education.”

Shannon Rogers, a mom of four in Calgary, has some concerns about the decisions school officials have made in recent weeks. Her oldest, for instance, is bound for high school and he worries about being prepared. She also wonders about “running out of steam” herself. She’s reduced her own workload to focus on her children’s education.

“It’s a lot trying to homeschool your kids. I am obviously not a teacher, so this is not a skill set that I have,” she said, questioning whether she can keep her kids on task and “progressing confidently.”

What she has been happy with is how teachers, principals and Alberta education officials have adapted amid the pandemic.

“One of the kid’s teachers sent a video, for example, saying hi to the kids and sort of encouraging them to keep up with the work that they had already going on…. They’re doing their best. I think it’s been quite remarkable really.”

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Coronavirus: Resources to help kids learn from home




As B.C. educators continue to work on alternative teaching arrangements amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, parents are also looking for resources to help their children learn from home.

Earlier this month, the province indefinitely suspended in-class education for students in kindergarten to Grade 12 in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Kids were about to go on spring break, but that ended on Friday and they are not returning to classrooms.

How to homeschool your kids during the COVID-19 pandemic

How to homeschool your kids during the COVID-19 pandemic

Teachers and administrators are looking at a range of remote-learning options, with final plans expected to vary by instructor and school. Staff are allowed to return to work as long as they can follow social-distancing rules.

In the meantime, here is a look at some online resources for parents and students:

Keep Learning BC

Launched by the B.C. government, Keep Learning BC offers parents ideas for everyday educational activities, links to free learning resources, guides to maintaining routines, and mental health resources.

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B.C. education response plan during COVID-19 shutdown

B.C. education response plan during COVID-19 shutdown

Pearson Canada K-12 Resources at Home

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Publishing company Pearson Canada has unveiled digital learning resources, including online versions of more than 70 widely used elementary and secondary textbooks.

Scholastic Learn at Home

The educational company, known for its book fairs, offers daily courses for students from pre-kindergarten through to Grade 9. According to the business, the website provides about three hours of learning per day for up to four weeks of instruction, and includes writing and research projects, virtual field trips, and reading and geography challenges.

Can your kids still learn when out of school?

Can your kids still learn when out of school?

Khan Academy

A massive online educational platform from a California-based non-profit organization that offers exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard.

Google Classroom

The tech giant offers a virtual space for teachers and students.

Terrance Martin, a father of two in Sooke on Vancouver Island, says parents should think of Google Classroom as an empty school that can be filled with content.

Martin is using technology to create his own virtual classroom. Dubbed The Caveman Engineer Society, Martin hopes to create a space for getting kids interested in STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering, and math.

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Shaw Helps

The cable giant offers online courses for students on topics such as financial literacy, compassion, mental health and digital wellness, through a collaboration with an online U.S. curriculum company called EVERFI.

Coronavirus: Families worry kids will fall behind in school due to online challenges

While parents may turn to digital tools to keep their kids busy, Jeremy Carpendale, a professor of developmental psychology at Simon Fraser University, said it’s important to not lose focus on a bigger goal: sparking children’s natural sense of curiosity.

“My message is to relax a bit, just enjoy your kids,” he said. “Try to help them follow up on their questions or interests, especially for younger kids. Give them some things of interest to do — arts and sciences.

“Look at what’s going on around you and you’ll find that they will start asking questions and then your job will be to try and help them follow up on answers, which can then be really fun because it goes all over the place and you’ll learn something.”

— With files from Simon Little and Richard Zussman

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