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P.E.I. schools, daycares to remain closed until at least May 11 in response to COVID-19

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P.E.I.’s chief public health officer says Island schools and daycares will remain closed to in-person learning until at least May 11.

She also recommended that non-essential businesses and government services close indefinitely, and that only essential staff should be on-site.

“This is a pandemic … it is not over,” said Morrison. “We all want to get back to our normal, but this is the time we need to continue our public health measures.

“Let’s do all we can to protect each other.”

Premier Dennis King also joined Morrison on Friday. He said the Public Schools Branch and Department of Education are figuring out details on how to accommodate the school closures.

Essential daycare services

The province is also looking to set up daycares for the children of essential workers, like in health care, King said. 

The premier said Minister of Education and Lifelong Learning Brad Trivers will share more information on daycare services for essential workers either Friday or Saturday and will have more information on the plan for school closures next week.

Morrison said too many people are travelling in and out of the province and that people should only be travelling out of necessity. All unnecessary travel into P.E.I. is prohibited.

National Emergency Strategic Stockpile clinic

The previously announced National Emergency Strategic Stockpile (NESS) mini-clinic is set up and near completion, Morrison said.

The clinic will be available Saturday in Charlottetown. It will have a drive-thru testing clinic and will offer a cough-and-fever clinic. It will operate seven days a week by appointment.

An equivalent cough-and-fever clinic will be set up in Summerside next week, with more details coming later Friday. 

Morrison also warned against a phishing email claiming to be COVID-19 results. She reminded Islanders that all confirmation will be given by phone by the Chief Public Health Office.

9 cases, 1 recovered

In her two briefings on Thursday, Morrison first announced that one of the province’s original cases is considered to be recovered, and then later announced that P.E.I. had four new cases — bringing the total to nine.

All four are men between 55 and 70 who travelled internationally and self-isolated upon return.

One travelled to the U.S., one to the Caribbean and two to Europe. There is no connection between the men.

In Friday’s briefing, Morrison said there are still nine positive cases of COVID-19 in the province.

All of P.E.I.’s COVID-19 cases have been related to international travel.

More to come.

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

  • Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.

  • Practise social distancing.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government’s website.

More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.

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Saskatoon-based video game highlights Canada’s contributions in Second World War

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Michael Long grew up in Saskatoon playing Second World War video games that almost always highlighted the allies victories using either British or American soldiers.

Rarely, if ever, is Canada and it’s important contributions mentioned.

Long, a video game developer and founder of indie gaming studio Foolish Mortals, decided to correct those wrongs by putting Canada’s historic military battles at the centre of his strategy game Radio Commander.

“None of the games that I’ve played cover Canada at all,” he said. “Canada’s barely ever mentioned — most of the time we’re lumped in with the British, if ever mentioned at all.”

Radio Commander is a military strategy game that puts the player in control of the army’s every move. Players are tasked with using their own voice and microphone to organize and command troops based on real Canadian battles in the war.

Rather than hopping into different battles from a bird’s eye view, Radio General keeps the player in the limited confines of the era: a table, a chair and map with markers.

“You’re not some eye in the sky that’s floating around the battlefield, and your troops don’t instantly recieve your orders and obey them,” he said.

That decision helped Long, a self-proclaimed stick man artist, save a lot of money on art production.

“How could I make a big budget game with lots of unit fighting, animations and battles with very little art? Well the answer is to hide everything from the player.”

Millions of people have since received an education on Canadian military history, thanks to Long.

Radio General reached the top spot of digital gaming platform Steam’s new and trending section, which is no small feat considering upwards of 30-million visits per day.

Long got his start in video game programming as a student at the University of Saskatchewan’s computer science program. Before eventually getting his master’s degree, Long discovered he was very good at game jams, a challenge where participants develop a game from start to finish over the course of a weekend.

“I won most of them,” Long said with a chuckle.

After designing a few games with nominal success, Long turned his attention towards Radio General. With help from the Canada Media Fund and Creative Saskatchewan, Long was able to finish the game in less than two and a half years.

Long wanted to make the game as authentic as possible, and with the rise in popularity in voice recognition in recent years, he felt capitalizing on the technology would suit a game centred around a radio perfectly.

He never imagined it would also be incredibly difficult to incorporate.

“Boy, was that a real challenge,” he said. “It turns out it’s really hard. Even large companies like Amazon and Google don’t always get it right. It’s hard for us to do better than that.”

The biggest hurdles in speech recognition was incorporating various accents and languages. Long said North American accents work best so far.

Long enlisted the help of a local historian to ensure all battles in the game were accurate. Long also read five different textbooks to make sure his history knowledge was as polished as possible.

Thanks to Library and Archives Canada — and some additional help from the Saskatoon Museum of Military Artifacts — Radio General was able to keep costs low.

“Before each battle, you actually take a look at photos of what’s going on at the time, watch some videos from the Canadian Army, then after the battle you read a little summary of what actually happened and then see a few more photos of the battle that you’ve probably won,” he said.

The photos and videos cost nothing, since all art used in the game were public domain.

Even though Long has struck it big, he doesn’t plan on moving to B.C., Ontario or Quebec to join their bustling tech industries.

He said he will stay in Saskatchewan for the foreseeable future.

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18 residents of Woodbridge long-term-care transported to hospital due to COVID; Province’s regional health units report total of 29,586 confirmed and probable cases

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The latest novel coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Sunday (this file will be updated throughout the day). Web links to longer stories if available.

5:12 p.m.: Ontario’s regional health units are reporting another 381 new COVID-19 infections, according to the Star’s latest count.

As of 5 p.m. Sunday, the health units have reported a total of 29,586 confirmed and probable cases, including 2,328 deaths, as the daily counts have fallen from a spike that saw the totals above 400 cases per day most of last week.

In May, the growth of new infections has not been felt equally in the province. The daily numbers have been falling outside of the GTA. Meanwhile, new cases inside the region have remained relatively high.

Sunday’s tally included 150 new cases in Toronto and 139 more in Peel Region; together, the two health units accounted for more than three-quarters of the province’s new infections.

According to a provincial database of COVID-19 cases, nearly 80 per cent of the 3,783 Ontarians with an active case of COVID-19 reside in the GTA, with nearly 85 per cent of those in living in Toronto or Peel Region.

In many parts of the province, only a handful of patients still have an active illness. Eighteen of Ontario’s 34 regional health units — including all six in Northern Ontario — have fewer than 10 active cases.

Meanwhile, the 12 fatal cases reported in the province since Saturday evening represented the lowest single-day total since April 5. The rate of deaths has fallen considerably since peaking at more than 90 in a day in early May, about two weeks after the daily case totals hit a first peak in mid-April.

Because many health units publish tallies to their websites before reporting to Public Health Ontario, the Star’s count is more current than the data the province puts out each morning.

Earlier Sunday, the province reported Ontario’s COVID-19 testing labs completed 17,014 tests Saturday, marking the third consecutive day above the target total of 16,000 daily.

The province also reported 781 patients are now hospitalized with COVID-19, including 118 in intensive care, of whom 90 are on a ventilator — numbers that have fallen sharply this month. The province also says nearly 22,000 patients who have tested positive for the coronavirus have now recovered from the disease — about three-quarters of the total infected.

The province says its data is accurate to 4 p.m. the previous day. The province also cautions its latest count of total deaths — 2,247 — may be incomplete or out of date due to delays in the reporting system, saying that in the event of a discrepancy, “data reported by (the health units) should be considered the most up to date.”

The Star’s count includes some patients reported as “probable” COVID-19 cases, meaning they have symptoms and contacts or travel history that indicate they very likely have the disease, but have not yet received a positive lab test.

5:06 p.m.: Public Health officials in New Brunswick are reporting three new cases of COVID-19 near Campbellton — in the north of the province — bringing to 12 the number of cases in a local cluster being blamed on a local doctor.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, says the three new cases Sunday and one reported Saturday are all seniors at the Manoir de la Vallee in Atholville, a long-term care facility, and are all reported directly related to the outbreak in the area.

Last week, a health-care worker at the facility also tested positive. The outbreak began after a local doctor contracted the virus in Quebec and returned to New Brunswick, and then failed to self-isolate. The incident has been referred to the RCMP for review.

4:01 p.m.: Toronto Public Health provided updated local COVID-19 totals on Sunday, including 150 new cases and five new deaths. The number of active cases crept up to 1,905 from 1,899.

The total number of deaths listed for the city is now 823.

1 p.m.: Eighteen residents of Woodbridge Vista Care Community were transported to hospital on Saturday night after testing positive for COVID-19, York Region said.

York Region spokesperson Stephanie Crowley confirmed that paramedics transferred the 18 patients from the long-term-care home near Steeles Avenue and Martin Grove Road to hospitals outside York Region. Crowley did not specify the conditions of the patients.

To date, 80 residents and 20 staff have tested positive for COVID-19 at Woodbridge Vista Care Community, according to provincial figures. Twelve have died.

12 p.m.: The Ontario government is asking for Ottawa’s help to expand broadband internet access for students as schools remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Sunday, in a letter to the federal government, Education Minister Stephen Lecce and Infrastructure Minister Laurie Scott requested “immediate, urgent support” to address gaps in broadband access in areas of rural and Northern Ontario.

“While most residents in Ontario have access to the internet, the speed, quality, and cost vary significantly across the province,” the ministers wrote.

“Existing internet connectivity gaps prevent many elementary and secondary students from accessing the same learning made available to all other Ontario students, affecting education equity.”

The letter states that, according to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, every Canadian should have an internet connection with access to broadband speeds of at least 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload and access to unlimited data.

The Ford government has committed to spend $315 million in the next five years to expand broadband access province-wide, and is asking the federal government to help speed up the effort of bringing almost 3,000 schools across the province, including 99 in Northern Ontario, online.

11 a.m. Ontario’s regional health units are reporting a total of 29,227 confirmed and probable cases, including 2,316 deaths.

The total of 314 new confirmed and probable cases reported since the same time Saturday morning was down from the previous day, as the daily totals continue to fall from a spike that saw the health unit totals above 400 per day most of last week.

The Sunday-morning tally includes the 123 new cases in Toronto and 114 more in Peel Region reported Saturday afternoon; together, the two health units accounted for nearly three-quarters of the province’s new infections.

According to a provincial database of COVID-19 cases, nearly 80 per cent of the 3,783 Ontarians with an active case of COVID-19 reside in the GTA, with nearly 85 per cent of those in living in Toronto or Peel Region.

In many parts of the province, only a handful of patients still have an active illness. Eighteen of Ontario’s 34 regional health units — including all six in Northern Ontario — have fewer than 10 active cases.

Meanwhile, the 18 fatal cases reported in the province since Saturday morning were below recent days. The rate of deaths is down considerably since peaking at more than 90 deaths in a day earlier this month, about two weeks after the daily case totals hit a first peak in mid-April.

Because many health units publish tallies to their websites before reporting to Public Health Ontario, the Star’s count is more current than the data the province puts out each morning.

Earlier Sunday, the province reported Ontario’s COVID-19 testing labs completed 17,014 tests Saturday, marking the third consecutive day above the target total of 16,000 daily.

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The province also reported 781 patients are now hospitalized with COVID-19, including 118 in intensive care, of whom 90 are on a ventilator — numbers that have fallen sharply this month. The province also says nearly 22,000 patients who have tested positive for the coronavirus have now recovered from the disease — about three-quarters of the total infected.

The province says its data is accurate to 4 p.m. the previous day. The province also cautions its latest count of total deaths — 2,247 — may be incomplete or out of date due to delays in the reporting system, saying in the event of a discrepancy, “data reported by (the health units) should be considered the most up to date.”

The Star’s count includes some patients reported as “probable” COVID-19 cases, meaning they have symptoms and contacts or travel history that indicate they very likely have the disease, but have not yet received a positive lab test.

11 a.m. When Kathryn Butler Malette learned her younger sister was diagnosed with COVID-19, she was confronted with a waking nightmare: that her beloved sibling might die alone.

While Ontario’s government has said facilities can allow end-of-life visits, Butler Malette said she was told the Ottawa-area long-term-care home where her sister lives didn’t want to chance it, given the magnitude of the outbreak they were experiencing.

Experts and insiders say that palliative care, which focuses on comfort, has become less of a priority during the COVID-19 pandemic, primarily due to visitor restrictions and even bans born out of staffing shortages and a need to limit exposure to the virus. But some say it’s time to loosen those restrictions and find a balance between keeping everyone safe and allowing dying patients to say goodbye to their loved ones.

Butler Malette would have done anything to be able to be with her sister through her sickness, worn any personal protective equipment, taken any precautions, she said — especially if her sister were to have reached end of life.

It didn’t get that far — after a few dips, Butler Malette’s sister has recovered, though the two have yet to be reunited — but the predicament is playing out in long-term care homes and hospices across the country, said Sharon Baxter, executive director of the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association.

While many provinces are loosening their policies on visiting dying family members, Baxter said, the facilities caring for patients are not always following suit. She said it’s time for that to change.

“We’re wanting to call attention to the issue that we could do much better with compassionate protocols. And now that things are starting to loosen up … now’s the time for us to look at, can we provide PPE for family members?” she said. “Can we make sure that family members can get in and say their goodbyes?”

She said that during this crisis, palliative care has been put on the back burner.

9 a.m.: Pope Francis cheerfully greeted people in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, as he resumed his practice of speaking to the faithful there for the first time since a coronavirus lockdown began in Italy and at the Vatican in early March.

Instead of the tens of thousands of people who might have turned out on a similarly sunny day like in pre-pandemic times, perhaps a few hundred came to the square on Sunday, standing well apart from others or in small family groups.

Until June 3, people aren’t allowed to travel between regions in Italy or arrive from abroad for tourism, so the people in the square came from Rome or places in the region.

Noting this was the first time he could greet people in the square for weeks, Francis said that “one doesn’t emerge from a crisis the same. You either come out better or you come out worse.” He said he’d be back to greet them next Sunday in the same place at noon, smiling and pointing down to the vast square far below his studio window.

8 a.m.: India reported more than 8,000 new cases of the coronavirus in a single day, another record high that topped the deadliest week in the country.

Confirmed infections have risen to 182,143, with 5,164 fatalities, including 193 in the last 24 hours, the Health Ministry said Sunday.

Overall, more than 60 per cent of the virus fatalities have been reported from only two states — Maharashtra, the financial hub, and Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The new cases are largely concentrated in six Indian states, including the capital New Delhi.

There are concerns the virus may be spreading through India’s villages as millions of jobless migrant workers return home from cities during the lockdown. Experts warn that the pandemic is yet to peak in India.

7:45 a.m.: Russia reported 9,268 new cases of the coronavirus on Sunday, the first time in a week that the daily tally exceeded 9,000, but the lowest death toll in several days: 138.

Overall, Russia has recorded 405,843 cases and 4,693 deaths from COVID-19. The relatively low mortality rate compared with other countries has prompted skepticism domestically and abroad.

7 a.m.:Ontarians who rely on prescription medication will hopefully see an onerous COVID-19 precaution lifted by the end of June.

A 30-day limit on prescriptions was brought in by the Ontario government in the early days of the pandemic in an effort to prevent drug shortages. Spokespeople for Ontario’s seniors community and the province’s pharmacy industry say they expect the limitation will be lifted within the month, returning to the usual 90-day maximum by July 1.

“It’s been a difficult policy,” said Justin Bates, the chief executive officer of the Ontario Pharmacists Association. “We stand by the policy, we think it was the right thing to do, but I think everybody’s hopeful that we can get back to 90 days and to a normal cycle of quantity.”

Saturday, 7 p.m. Ontario’s regional health units are reporting 320 new COVID-19 infections, according to the Star’s latest count.

As of 5 p.m. Saturday, the health units had reported a total of 29,212 confirmed and probable cases, including 2,316 deaths. The daily counts have fallen from a spike that saw totals above 400 cases per day most of last week.

Saturday’s tally included 123 new cases in Toronto and 114 more in Peel Region; together, the two health units accounted for nearly three-quarters of the province’s new infections.

According to a provincial database of COVID-19 cases, nearly 80 per cent of the 3,933 Ontarians with an active case of COVID-19 reside in the GTA, with nearly 85 per cent of those in Toronto or Peel Region.



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Wanted: Second-hand computers for N.W.T. students

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Kirby Marshall knows outside of the larger, urban centres in the North, not only is access to the internet limited — so is access to computers.

When COVID-19 hit, Marshall said it was clear to him that schools would be one of the first things to shut down. That would mean kids would be learning remotely, posing a challenge for the hundreds of students in the Northwest Territories without a computer.

Marshall, who owns Global Storm IT in Yellowknife, says there are roughly 500 kids in the N.W.T.’s Tlicho and Dehcho regions that don’t have one.

“This is a big problem and it’s one that’s only going to get solved by people working together,” he said during an interview with Lawrence Nayally, host of CBC’s Trail’s End.

Marshall has been reaching out to companies across the North to see if they would be willing to donate any second-hand machines to equip students with the tools they need to continue learning.

According to a press release from Northern News Services Ltd., the media company is donating a drop-off point where they will “log and sanitize your donation” at no cost. The company will also give a free electronic subscription with each computer.

Ile Royale Enterprises Ltd. is also getting involved. According to the release, the company will be providing strategic advice for the program.

Marshall said because of the pandemic, the global supply chain for computers virtually dried up overnight. Factories shut worldwide and people gobbled up what was left of a dwindling stock so they could improve their work-from-home setups.

Hopes to collect 500 computers

Marshall hopes to receive 500 computers. He has about 50 so far. He sanitizes them, wipes their hard drives and installs software used by schools. He plans to start shipping them out next week.

The business owner hopes it will help keep kids in school, even if they can’t physically be in the classroom.

Schools across the territory will remain closed for the remainder of the school year, and Marshall worries that will mean more students will drop out.

Roughly 40 per cent of Grade 11 and 12 students fail or dropout, according to a recent audit of the territory’s education system.

“With the pandemic, those figures are going to go way up,” Willis said.

He said some educators he talked to suggest the numbers could climb to 80 or 90 per cent — or higher.

“That’s unfathomable,” he said.

“They need help. And so let’s all get together and do what we can to help them.”

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