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Today’s coronavirus news: York Region imposes modified Stage 2 restrictions; Ontario reports 712 cases; Canada’s count climbed by an average of 2,300 cases per day over the past seven days

Posted: October 17, 2020

(October 16, 2020)

By: News Staff, Toronto Star

4:27 p.m. There have been 193,622 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada, including 9,721 deaths, while 163,260 cases have been resolved, according to The Canadian Press.

This breaks down as follows (NOTE: The Star does its own count for Ontario; see elsewhere this file.):

  • Quebec: 91,018 confirmed (including 6,018 deaths, 76,512 resolved)
  • Ontario: 62,908 confirmed (including 3,031 deaths, 54,004 resolved)
  • Alberta: 21,443 confirmed (including 288 deaths, 18,417 resolved)
  • British Columbia: 11,034 confirmed (including 250 deaths, 9,257 resolved)
  • Manitoba: 3,173 confirmed (including 38 deaths, 1,533 resolved)
  • Saskatchewan: 2,270 confirmed (including 25 deaths, 1,946 resolved)
  • Nova Scotia: 1,093 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,024 resolved)
  • New Brunswick: 297 confirmed (including two deaths, 203 resolved)
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 287 confirmed (including four deaths, 271 resolved)
  • Prince Edward Island: 63 confirmed (including 60 resolved)
  • Yukon: 15 confirmed, all of which have been resolved
  • Repatriated Canadians account for 13 confirmed cases, all of which have been resolved
  • Northwest Territories: five confirmed, all of which have been resolved, and three presumptive cases
  • Nunavut reports no confirmed cases.

3:32 p.m. The Manitoba government is imposing increased restrictions in the greater Winnipeg area due to rising COVID-19 numbers, The Canadian Press reports.

Starting Monday, and lasting for two weeks, gatherings will be limited to five people and a maximum of five people will be allowed to sit together at a restaurant, according to CP.

Beverage rooms, bingo halls and casinos will have to close, while restaurants, lounges and retail stores will be limited to half capacity.

Health officials say the measures were prompted by growing community transmission of the novel coronavirus, and data that shows many cases have been connected to people socializing in bars, restaurants and homes.

3:25 p.m. Ontario, parts of Quebec, and Manitoba are looking to ramp up COVID-19 restrictions as Canada’s caseload inches closer to the 200,000 mark, The Canadian Press reports.

Canada’s chief public health officer says the national count has climbed by an average of 2,300 cases per day over the past seven days, while an average of 20 people per day die from the illness, according to CP.

As of Friday afternoon, there were 193,575 confirmed cases in Canada.

Ontario tightened restrictions on long-term care homes in three hotspots Friday, as the premier also made the reluctant decision to reinstate stricter rules on a fourth region north of Toronto.

Premier Doug Ford said the York Region will revert back to a modified stage 2 of the province’s pandemic plan Monday in an effort to curb an “alarming” surge in COVID-19 cases.

“We’re seeing a rapid increase in the rate of infection, with the positivity rate of 2.77 per cent, above the high-alert threshold of 2.5 per cent,” Ford said of York.

“Most concerning of all, critical care admissions are reaching alarming levels.”

The new measures for the region, which will be in place for 28 days, prohibit indoor service at restaurants and close gyms, among other services.

Most of Ontario’s cases are concentrated in Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa. As of Friday, residents of long-term care homes in those regions are not allowed to leave for social or personal reasons.

The Ontario Long-Term Care Association told an independent commission last month that many facilities face severe staffing shortages that could leave them unprepared for the pandemic’s second wave.

Meanwhile, Quebec’s public health institute urged Quebecers to shrink their social circles even further as the province reported an increase of 1,055 new COVID-19 cases and one new virus-related death in the past 24 hours.

As hospitals admit a weekly average of 870 patients per day, Dr. Theresa Tam urged Canadians to do their part to reduce the burden on the health-care system by getting their flu shot as the seasonal virus converges with the second wave of the pandemic.

While the flu shot doesn’t protect against the virus that causes COVID-19, Tam said getting vaccinated reduces one’s risk of back-to-back or simultaneous infections that can lead to more severe health outcomes.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters that the federal government is prepared to step in to ensure provincial authorities are protecting older Canadians from the outbreaks that ravaged long-term homes in several regions last spring.

Some provinces handled the crisis better than others, Trudeau said. And while health policy falls under provincial purview, all levels of government share a responsibility to keep seniors safe during the second wave, he said.

That’s why Trudeau said he’s calling for “national norms” to address chronic gaps in the long-term care system.

2 p.m. Nova Scotia is reporting one new case of COVID-19. Health officials say the new case is in the central health zone, which includes Halifax, and is related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada.

The infected person is in self-isolation. The province now has four active cases of novel coronavirus infection.

In total, Nova Scotia has had 1,093 positive cases of COVID-19 while 1,024 cases have been resolved and there have been 65 deaths.

The province also announced that it is renewing its state of emergency on Sunday and the order will extend until noon on Nov. 1.

1:55 p.m. Toronto FC will play before fans at its Nov. 1 game against Inter Miami CF in East Hartford.

The MLS club said Friday that it has the green light from local authorities to have up to 5,000 spectators at the 38,000-seat Pratt and Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field, which is serving as Toronto’s home away from home during the pandemic.

“We look forward to having some fans in the stands for our final regular-season game in East Hartford,” Toronto president Bill Manning said in a statement. “Toronto FC is so grateful to the state of Connecticut and everyone at Pratt and Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field for providing us with such an outstanding facility during this unique stretch of games. Our players feel the support already and having some fans will make it even better.”

Select seating will be available in both the stadium’s lower and upper bowls. Spectators will be required to wear a mask or face covering and adhere to social distancing within the stadium.

1:16 p.m. (will be updated) Premier Doug Ford says York Region will enter the modified Stage 2 that Toronto, Peel Region, and Ottawa have been in since Friday. That means no indoor dining or drinks service in restaurants and bars there after Sunday.

1 p.mPrime Minister Justin Trudeau says long-term care homes have not done a good enough job of protecting seniors in the COVID-19 pandemic and the federal government has a responsibility to step in.

He says health is an area of provincial responsibility but the pandemic has revealed numerous cracks in the system that need to be fixed, with different levels of care in different parts of the country.

If all the politicians don’t get together to address the problems, Trudeau says that would be a mass failure.

He says public officials need to be able to look seniors and their families in the eye and say they’ve been properly cared for.

11 a.m. Eight pairs of skaters are set to hit the ice for “Battle of the Blades” next week after production was put on hold by a COVID-19 case.

The televised skating competition was supposed kick off on Thursday, but the premiere was postponed last week when a person involved in the production tested positive for the virus.

CBC says the two-hour live debut has been rescheduled to Oct. 22, with singer, TV host and actress Keshia Chante set to join sportscaster Ron MacLean as hosts of the sixth season.

An executive producer said last Wednesday that a member of the show’s team had tested positive for COVID-19, but creators were confident the case was isolated and planned to resume production this week.

10:52 a.m. Tennis Canada has postponed three Challenger pro events because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organization announced Friday that the Calgary and Drummondville, Que., National Bank Challenger men’s events and the Fredericton Challenger women’s event are off the schedule.

The Calgary event was scheduled for February, while Fredericton and Drummondville were slated for March.

Challenger events offer opportunities for pros who can’t get into tour-level events.

“We are optimistic about hosting more professional events in 2021 and will address this topic in the coming months as we continue to monitor the pandemic situation,” Gavin Ziv, vice-president professional events for Tennis Canada, said in a statement.

10:44 a.m. As Toronto enters a second wave of COVID-19, divorce lawyers are also expecting a “second wave of calls.”

Toronto based family law practice Shulman & Partners LLP, saw an almost 20 per cent increase in clients in June, 2020 compared to the prior year and, expect an increase of inquiries following the pandemics second wave.

“During the first wave, we saw a pretty significant increase when you compare to the inquiries that were received in previous years. A majority of them were dealing with COVID related issues,” says lawyer Alyssa Bach.

Parenting arrangements are included in the list of potential problems that couples are facing during the pandemic.

10:31 a.m. (will be updated) Ontario is reporting 712 new COVID-19 cases today, as well as nine new deaths linked to the virus.

The majority of the cases are in Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa.

As of today, residents of long-term-care homes in those three regions — where cases have been surging — are not allowed to go out for social or personal reasons.

10:05 a.m. Julia Smith has had difficulty breathing, body aches and “unbelievable” sinus pain ever since she caught COVID-19 at Hamilton’s SpinCo spin studio two weeks ago.

Despite all that, she says she has no regrets.

It’s important to keep gyms open for people’s mental health, she says.

But with fitness centres already closed temporarily in Toronto, Ottawa and Peel — Ontario’s COVID “hot spots” — and the province reviewing guidelines for gyms, the threat of broader closures looms large.

9:37 a.m. We all know who the real winner of 2020 is: screen time.

The pandemic screen binge has been some surprise hits, like “Cheer” on Netflix, Sarah Cooper’s TikTok videos and, over on Twitch, online chess.

Yes, chess, as in the strategy game that sees two players peg off each other’s pawns and rooks and other things on a 64-square board until they can finally corner the king. Spoiler alert: the king is actually a loaf, while it’s the queen who does most of the heavy lifting.

Anyhow, over on Twitch, the biggest streaming network for gamers, people are tuning in in droves to watch chess whizzes and master play chess, giving “Fortnite” a run for its money.

9:20 a.m. An Ontario court has ruled that Toronto breached its obligations under a settlement about physical distancing in its homeless shelters, and must resume weekly reporting about its compliance.

The verdict released by Ontario’s Superior Court on Thursday is the latest development in a case that began earlier this year, when a coalition of homeless service providers and human rights groups filed a lawsuit accusing the city of failing to provide safe living conditions in its respites, shelters and drop-in facilities.

The two sides reached a settlement in May, which required the city to use best efforts to achieve and sustain physical distancing standards.

The settlement also required the city to issue weekly progress reports to the coalition and two monthly reports after full compliance had been reached.

9:14 a.m. Statistics Canada says manufacturing sales fell 2.0 per cent to $52.4 billion in August, weighed down by a drop in the transportation sector.

The decline followed three consecutive months of strong increases, the agency said.

Economists on average had expected a decline of 1.4 per cent for the month, according to financial data firm Refinitiv.

Sales in the transportation equipment industry fell 13.7 per cent to $9.6 billion as Canadian exports of motor vehicles and auto parts fell in August.

Excluding transportation equipment, manufacturing sales rose 1.1 per cent.

In constant dollar terms, manufacturing sales fell 2.2 per cent, indicating a smaller volume of products was sold in August.

8:41 a.m. The TTC is recalling the last remaining employees it furloughed earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 180 front-line employees, 97 of them bus operators, will be back on the job in the first week of November, according to a statement released Thursday evening.

System-wide ridership is at about 36 per cent of normal.

The TTC had previously said it wouldn’t recall the remaining furloughed workers until ridership across the network was back to half what it was.

8:33 a.m. To avoid disaster, Toronto residents must continue doing everything possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19, despite an apparent improvement in some of the city’s pandemic indicators, virus experts say.

“Toronto Public Health continues to see substantial and concerning numbers of new cases, including in long-term care settings, and new hospitalizations daily,” said Dr. Vinita Dubey, an associate medical officer of health.

“We cannot drop our guard. As long as the virus is circulating in the community, it can and will continue to spread.”

8:32 a.m. Days after forcing thousands of restaurants and bars to cease indoor service to curb COVID-19, the governing Progressive Conservatives are fundraising off of the party’s “support for small businesses.”

In an email appeal Thursday night for cash donations, PC Ontario Fund chair Tony Miele says “we know small businesses — the cornerstone of our communities — are struggling.”

“And we know that helping them get back on their feet is critical to Ontario’s recovery. Our message to them is this: your PC government will do whatever it takes to support you and help you get back on your feet,” wrote Miele.

“Nothing is off the table.”

8:30 a.m. The usual jitters before Alpine skiing’s World Cup season opener won’t be limited to the racers this weekend.

Organizers, sponsors and fans will be just as anxious about the 2020-21 campaign, which starts amid rising numbers of coronavirus cases across Europe.

Even before its traditional start in Soelden, Austria, on Saturday, the season is surrounded by many questions — and they are not just about who will win the races.

The American and Canadian swing in November and December was cancelled and partly replaced by events in Europe, and the men’s and women’s circuits have been kept apart as much as possible.

But can all 38 men’s and 34 women’s races on the current calendar take place as scheduled?

What about the Feb. 8-21 world championships in Cortina d’Ampezzo? Or the Feb. 24-28 Olympic test event in Yanqing, China?

There are questions about travel restrictions, testing, and how racers will perform after their mostly hampered off-season preparations.

8:17 a.m. Australia’s largest city, Sydney, lifted quarantine restrictions on travellers from New Zealand on Friday while the second largest city, Melbourne, marked the 100th day of one of the world’s longest pandemic lockdowns.

More than 350 passengers were scheduled to take three flights from Auckland on Friday and will not have to undergo hotel quarantine on arrival in Sydney.

New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said: “This is great news for tourism. It’s also great news for family reunification and grateful businesses.”

New Zealand will continue to insist that travellers from Australia quarantine in hotels for 14 days on arrival.

The Victoria state government has resisted pressure from businesses and the federal government to relax a second lockdown that began when stay-at-home orders took effect in Melbourne on July 9.

Victoria recorded only two new COVID-19 cases in the latest 24-hour period. The state last recorded such a low number on June 8, with daily tallies peaking at 725 on Aug. 5.

8:15 a.m. Global shares were mixed on Friday as investors weighed concerns about a U.S. economic stimulus package, on top of flaring outbreaks of coronavirus.

The futures for the Dow industrials and the S&P 500 were both up 0.3 per cent. European indexes recovered some of the previous day’s heavy losses, with France’s CAC 40 up 1.6 per cent to 4,913, while Germany’s DAX gained 1 per cent to 12,835. Britain’s FTSE 100 added nearly 1.4 per cent to 5,913.

Markets have turned cautious this week amid a confluence of worrisome trends amid the pandemic. Coronavirus infections are rising in Europe, prompting governments in France and Britain to impose new measures to contain the outbreak. Caseloads area also climbing in the Americas and parts of Asia.

In the U.S., investor optimism that the Trump administration and Congress will soon reach a deal on another round of stimulus for the economy has waned.

8 a.m. Seniors advocates and medical professionals are warning we could be on the cusp of another long-term-care catastrophe as COVID-19 cases in Ontario homes hover around similar numbers seen in early April — just two weeks before a massive spike of infections tore through hundreds of facilities.

“I absolutely am very terrified and worried,” said Dr. Amit Arya, a palliative care physician specializing in long-term care who witnessed first-hand the devastation of the first wave in GTA facilities. “We have to really realize that long-term care is not a parallel universe. More spread of COVID-19 in the community increases the risk of an outbreak starting in long-term-care facilities.”

As of Thursday, there were 159 residents and 199 staff members of long-term-care homes with active cases of COVID-19, according to the provincial government. Compare that to 176 long-term-care residents and 141 staff members with COVID-19 as of April 7, according to data collected by the Ontario Health Coalition, a non-profit, non-partisan network of public health care advocates. The April numbers collected by the coalition are not scientific and likely didn’t capture all infections, but they are the best data available from that time because the province didn’t start publishing active home-by-home long-term-care outbreak figures until more than two weeks later.

6:01 a.m.: Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said Friday that she had left the European Union summit in Belgium “as a precautionary measure” and was flying back home to undergo a coronavirus test.

The move came one day after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen left the summit venue in Brussels shortly after the meeting began because one of her close staffers tested positive for COVID-19.

Marin wrote, “I left the European Council meeting as a precautionary measure and asked the Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven to represent the Finnish end of the meeting time.”

Marin had attended a meeting Wednesday at the Finnish parliament together with lawmaker Tom Packalen who later had tested positive for the coronavirus and had mild flu symptoms.

5:25 a.m.: Coronavirus infections in the Czech Republic have set a new one-day record for the second straight day.

Health Ministry figures show the day-to-day increase reached 9,721 on Thursday, 177 more than the previous record set a day earlier.

The nation of more than 10 million has had a total of 149,010 cases since the beginning of the pandemic. Almost 50,000 of them were registered last week. It has also seen 1,230 deaths.

Hospitals across the country have been postponing nonvital planned operations to focus on the growing number of COVID-19 patients. The government said their full capacity could be reached around the end of October.

The Czech military will start build a field hospital at Prague’s exhibition centre over the weekend for 500 patients. A similar plan is ready for the second largest city of Brno, while the government is negotiating with neighbouring Germany and some other countries for Czechs to be treated there if the local health system is overwhelmed.

5:21 a.m.: A top British scientist says continuing arguments about how and when to impose tighter restrictions to combat COVID-19 are damaging public health and leading to more economic hardship.

An infectious disease specialist who sits on the government’s scientific advisory committee says the U.K. needs to quickly implement tighter restrictions nationwide to slow the spread of the virus and limit broader damage to society.

Jeremy Farrar, director of the research funding charity the Wellcome Trust, says restrictions under the government’s current three-tier strategy aren’t tough enough to bring the virus under control and squabbling over where and when to impose the measures risks confusing the public.

“I think we’ve got to come together as a country,” Farrar told the BBC’s Newscast podcast. “The fragmentation and, frankly, making this either a north-south or a party political issue that’s a very, very dangerous route to go on.”

5:19 a.m.: Germany has confirmed more than 7,000 new coronavirus infections for the first time, its second consecutive daily record.

The Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s national disease control centre, said early Friday that 7,334 new cases were confirmed in the previous 24 hours. That compares with 6,638 a day earlier.

Until this week, Germany’s highest recorded figure was nearly 6,300 in late March, though testing has expanded vastly since then. Figures tend to peak around the end of the week, but the latest reading underlines a sharp upward trend in recent weeks.

Earlier this week, the federal and state governments agreed to toughen mask-wearing rules and make bars close early in areas where infections are high.

5:15 a.m.: South Korea’s daily coronavirus tally has dropped below 50 for the first time in more than two weeks despite reports of small-scale local infections.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Friday the 47 cases added in the past 24 hours took the country’s total to 25,035 with 441 deaths. It’s a decline from the 110 reported a day earlier, about half of them tied to a hospital for the elderly in the southeastern city of Busan.

Health official Son Youngrae says South Korea’s caseload is currently showing a downward trend. But he says the public must stay vigilant as cluster infections have also been detected sporadically in hospitals and other high-risk facilities.

5:11 a.m.: India’s confirmed coronavirus fatalities jumped to 895 in the past 24 hours, a day after recording the lowest daily deaths of 680 in nearly three months.

The Health Ministry on Friday also reported 63,371 new cases, raising India’s total to more than 7.3 million, second in the world behind the U.S. The worst-hit western Maharashtra state accounted for nearly 36% of the 112,161 total deaths since the outbreak of the pandemic. The country was seeing more than 1,000 deaths per day last month.

According to the Health Ministry, India’s average number of daily cases dropped to 72,576 last week from 92,830 during the week of Sept. 9-15, when the virus peaked. It is recording an average of around 70,000 cases daily so far this month.

5 a.m.: Italy has two weeks to stop the rising rate of transmission of coronavirus or it risks “following in the footsteps” of European neighbours where exponential spreads have ushered back harsh restrictions, a virologist on the front lines says.

Italian health officials have declared that the resurgence of COVID-19 has reached an “acute phase.” Massimo Galli, the director of infectious diseases at Milan’s Luigi Sacco hospital, said Italy’s surge — which hit pandemic highs of new daily infections this week — is not the result of record testing, as policy-makers have suggested, but a sign of a real return among the population most at risk.

It only takes a look at Sacco’s COVID-19 ward, a few steps from Galli’s office, to raise the alarm.

“We have a situation that reminds one quite distressingly of the one that we already have experienced,’’ Galli told The Associated Press, referring to the peak in March and April when the surge in infections resulted in a one-day record of 969 deaths.

4 a.m.: Members of Ontario’s fitness industry say they’re eagerly awaiting the outcome of a provincial review of COVID-19 protocols for gyms and similar facilities.

The province’s associate medical officer of health said this week that the safety guidelines for gyms were being reconsidered after a large outbreak of the novel coronavirus linked to a cycling studio in Hamilton.

Jason Sheridan, the senior vice-president of operations at GoodLife Fitness, said he and his colleagues with the Fitness Industry Council of Canada would “love the opportunity” to work with public health officials to create new guidelines.

“We are very open to navigating this situation together with them and supportive of the direction we receive from these medical experts based on an evidence-based approach,” said Sheridan.

“We are open to learning about the concerns surrounding gyms and offering solutions that would allow us to reopen.”

More than a quarter of Hamilton’s active COVID-19 cases are connected to the SPINCO cycling studio outbreak.

The city’s public health unit said on Thursday that 47 positive cases were primary infections from the cycling studio, which recorded its first related case on Oct. 5.

According to Dr. Barbara Yaffe, the province’s associate medical officer of health, the cycling studio followed all of the current provincial guidelines but they still weren’t enough to prevent the outbreak. That sparked the current review, she said.

Thursday 10:56 p.m.: Australia’s largest city Sydney lifted quarantine restrictions on travellers from New Zealand on Friday while the second largest city, Melbourne, marked the 100th day of one the world’s longest pandemic lockdowns.

More than 350 passengers are scheduled to take three flights from Auckland on Friday and will not have to undergo hotel quarantine on arrival in Sydney.

New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said: “This is great news for tourism. It’s also great news for family reunification and grateful businesses.”

New Zealand will continue to insist that travellers from Australia quarantine in hotels for 14 days on arrival.

The Victoria state government has resisted pressure from businesses and the federal government to relax a second lockdown that began when stay-at-home orders took effect in Melbourne on July 9.

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