Quebec sends 1,000 prevention agents to workplaces to boost coronavirus safeguard measures

Quebec is sending teams of prevention agents to offices, retail stores and other worksites to inform employers and workers on health measures to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The measure, which was announced on Monday by the province’s labour ministry, comes as confinement rules designed to contain COVID-19 are loosened and thousands of people head back to work.

The government is redeploying 1,000 workers from other departments — including the Health and Social Services Ministry and the City of Montreal — to visit workplaces.

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The teams will be deployed across the province, including hard-hit Montreal. They were trained by the province’s workplace health and safety board (CNESST).

As part of the plan, the agents will visit different workplaces or do followups. They will inform people about physical distancing and answer questions on health measures implemented to contain COVID-19.

“This initiative will provide concrete support to employers and workers so that the health standards set by the public health department are respected,” Labour Minister Jean Boulet said in a statement.

The teams will do visits and followups in more than 20 fields, including retail stores, spas and construction companies. The province will continue to send prevention workers to other sectors as they reopen.

Quebec, which leads the country in caseload and deaths attributable to the respiratory illness, is gradually reopening parts of the economy and education sectors.

With files from the Canadian Press

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Coronavirus: Victoria’s Secret losing 250 North American stores, Canada Goose cuts workers

More retailers have announced layoffs and store closures at their Canadian operations as they continue to grapple with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Canada Goose Holdings Inc. announced Wednesday it would lay off 125 employees, or about 2.5 per cent of its more than 5,000-person workforce. It did not answer questions about where the laid off employees worked or how many were in Canada.

It was a “difficult, but responsible decision,” the company said in a statement and comes after it has taken several steps to address the business impacts of the coronavirus.

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The Toronto-based retailer closed its North American and European retail stores on March 17, joining a wave of government mandated and voluntary store closures to help curb the spread of the virus.

CEO Dani Reiss said at that time he would forgo his salary for at least three months and the money would instead be used to help the company’s employees.

Canada Goose suspended the long-term outlook it initially provided in May 2019 as it did not account for the coronavirus pandemic, and reiterated its new outlook for the 2020 financial year that it noted at its last quarterly earnings in February.

“The extent and duration of COVID-19 disruptions remain uncertain and they may negatively impact future fiscal periods more significantly,” the company said in March.

Canada Goose says it is committed to support laid off employees with what it called fair compensation packages, extended benefits, a letter of reference from the CEO and other assistance.

Meanwhile, American retailer L Brands announced Wednesday it will reduce the number of company-owned Victoria’s Secret stores and close about 250 in the U.S. and Canada this year.

The company plans to go from 33 Victoria’s Secret stores in Canada at the start of this year to 23, according to a forecast in its financial documents, and reduce its PINK-brand stores, which target post-secondary women, from five to two.

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Hamilton has 10 new COVID-19 cases, 1 more death in the community

Hamilton, Ont., reported 10 more cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday putting the city’s overall number of cases at 500 as the pandemic continues.

Four-hundred and ninety-five are confirmed positive cases of coronavirus. There are five probable cases.

The city said there was one new COVID-19-related death on Wednesday – an 81-year-old female who passed away on May 11 in the community. The latest death is not connected to an institution or associated with any outbreaks in Hamilton.

Public health says the outbreak at I.H. Mission Services is over after being first reported on May 2.

As of Wednesday, the city has 11 outbreaks at nine long-term care homes (Arbour Creek, Blackadar Continuing Care, Dundurn Place Care Centre, Extendicare Hamilton, Grace Villa, Heritage Green, Idlewyld Manor, Regina Gardens, and Wentworth Lodge) and two retirement residences (The Rosslyn, and The Village of Wentworth Heights).

Hamilton hospitals have 23 patients in care units — 13 at Hamilton Health Sciences and 10 at St. Joseph’s hospitals.

The city says 366 of the city’s 500 COVID-19 cases — or 73 per cent — have been resolved.

Niagara Region reports 2 new COVID-19 cases, 1 more death

Niagara Region reported two new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday. The region has a total of 563, with almost three-quarters of their total cases — 416 — resolved, according to public health.

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The region had one new death as of May 13. The deceased was a Niagara resident and a patient at a Niagara Health hospital who died Tuesday morning.

Forty-five of the region’s 55 deaths have been connected to long-term care homes or retirement residences.

Niagara has six outbreaks with two at hospitals: the Intensive Care Unit of St. Catharines General and the Trillium-Rainbow unit at Greater Niagara General.

The other four outbreaks are at two long-term-care homes (Royal Rose Place and Henley House in St. Catharines) and two retirement homes (Lundy Manor in Niagara Falls and Seasons in Welland).

Seventy-three of the region’s cases have been connected to residents or patients in an institutional outbreak.

No new cases of COVID-19 in Brant County

Brant County’s health unit reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday.  The region holds at 102 confirmed cases with six people hospitalized as of May 13.

The county’s one outbreak — at Briarwood Gardens retirement home — is on-going.

The region has had three deaths and 90 resolved cases.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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Premier Doug Ford to announce plans Thursday for Ontario to enter ‘Stage 1’ of reopening

Premier Doug Ford says he will share more “good news” on Thursday about people getting back to work and opening more workplaces amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“It will be Stage 1 of three stages,” Premier Doug Ford said at his daily press briefing at Queen’s Park on Tuesday.

“So that’s very important, that the people of Ontario have all followed the protocols, and we’ve hit Stage 1 on Thursday. So we’ll have more details as that rolls around.”

Ford said Ontario will be reopening more low risk workplaces, seasonal businesses and essential services.

“On Thursday, we will share more good news about getting people back to work, more good news about opening workplaces,” Ford continued.

“Getting paycheques out the door. More good news about slowly getting back to normal.”

According to framework previously released by the province, Stage 1 includes:

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Stage 1

  • Businesses that can immediately meet or modify operations to meet public health guidance and occupational health and safety, for instance through curbside pick-up or delivery.
  • Open some outdoor spaces like parks.
  • Allow for a greater number of individuals to attend some events, like funerals.
  • Hospitals begin to offer some non-urgent scheduled surgeries and other services.
  • Continued protections for vulnerable populations and practice of physical distancing.

Ontario has released more than 80 safety guidelines for businesses to follow for reopening.

When it comes to enforcement, Ford said they will be relying on inspectors.

“We will have inspectors going into stores to make sure they inspect and they are following the proper processes to make sure not only their staff, but their customers are safe as well,” Ford continued. “We are going to continue with the inspections right across the board.”

“I have confidence in businesses. They are getting ready to open up … the vast majority of businesses are doing everything they can to protect their staff and their customers. It’s the right thing to do.”

Last week, Ontario eased more restrictions by allowing garden centres, nurseries, hardware and supply stores to reopen. Retail stores, with a street entrance, were allowed to provide curbside pickup to customers as of Monday.

On Tuesday, the province reported 361 new cases and 56 more deaths due to COVID-19. In total, there has been 20,907 cases and 1,725 deaths attributed to the virus in Ontario.

“We’re building a solid foundation for the cautious reopening of our province. We’re charting a path to a strong recovery, with the progress we’ve made, I am confident we can move forward,” Ford said.

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Granby Zoo asking for donations amid coronavirus pandemic

One of Canada’s largest zoos is calling on the public for help amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

Granby Zoo has launched an online fundraising campaign to aid the park as it struggles financially.

The zoo has continued to take care of the animals after it was ordered to close its gates in March along with other non-essential businesses in a bid to limit the spread of the virus.

With no revenue coming in and no opening date on the horizon, director general Paul Gosselin fears for the zoo’s future.

“We have no revenue at all and on the other side, we have a lot of expenses taking care of the animals,” Gosselin said.

The park can continue running a deficit for another two to three months, according to Gosselin.

So far, the campaign has raised some $40,000, but much more is needed, according to park officials.

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The money will be going towards taking care of the 1,500 animals on site.

The zoo spends around $500,000 annually on food and veterinary costs.

“We need some support from the public to be sure to keep the highest level of animal care,” Granby Zoo animal care director Karl Fournier said.

The zoo is preparing for the worst — closing for the summer months.

Gosselin says that would be catastrophic as 80 per cent of the zoo’s revenue is generated during that time.

“The visitors are so important because they pay our salary, they pay the food for the animals, and no visitors means no revenue,” Fournier said.

Granby is one of the largest zoos in Canada, next to the Calgary and Toronto zoos, which are supported by the city. Granby is a non-profit.

Zoo officials say they have some relief via the federal government’s Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program but Gosselin says more governmental aid is needed to get through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are expecting to be closed all summer long so based on that, we would need help from the government.”

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‘I’m not so concerned’: Pediatric expert says minimal risk to reopening Quebec schools

While high schools, CEGEPs and universities will remain closed in Quebec until September due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the province announced tentative plans earlier this week to return elementary school students to the classroom for the final few weeks of the school year.

Schools outside of hard-hit Greater Montreal are set to reopen on May 11, with their Montreal counterparts tentatively expected to do the same on May 19, provided hospitalizations from the virus remain stable or decrease.

Despite attendance not being mandatory, the plan has proved controversial with parents and teachers’ unions, with many concerned about the potential health risks to students and their families.

Dr. Harley Eisman, a pediatric surgeon at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, told Global News Morning the overall risk of sending young children back to the classroom is generally low.

“I think, by and large, children are doing medically quite well,” he said, based on his observations over the course of the pandemic. “We haven’t seen, at least in pediatrics, an increase in respiratory issues or ill patients.”

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However, Eisman cautioned that sending children back to school will likely do little to increase herd immunity, or society-wide immunity to the virus, to hamper its further spread. That idea was initially promoted by Premier François Legault last week, though he has since indicated that eventually achieving herd immunity to COVID-19 in Quebec could be a “benefit” of slowly reopening the economy and should not be a goal in and of itself.

“The thing is, at first, we thought that school-age children were efficient spreaders of the virus,” Eisman explained, adding that now, new data is emerging to suggest that may not actually be the case.

“Sending them back to school may not help us increase, or get to that state, of herd immunity.”

In response to concerns that children returning to school could put older or immunosuppressed members of a school community at risk, Eisman said he doesn’t see that being a major issue in the weeks ahead.

“I think that schools are going to be wise,” he explained. “Those who are vulnerable, either schoolchildren, teachers, staff, those who are older, probably will remain at home. I’m not so concerned about the kids.”

Eisman said the real challenge will be ensuring schools can be successfully staffed under these new circumstances.

As well, data to date on COVID-19-related hospitalizations across all age groups has been encouraging and indicates Quebec’s health-care system will be able to handle any increase in cases caused by the loosening of social-distancing measures.

“Certainly, I’m reassured that if kids do get sick, and I think, for the most part, it’ll be a mild illness, certainly, we have the capacity to care,” Eisman said.

He added: “I think that, hopefully, in the next few weeks, the curve we’re seeing in Montreal will abate, and the situation in the senior and long-term care residences will start to resolve itself.”

That, Eisman says, will allow officials to focus on getting schools and businesses back up and running to some degree.

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Guelph man charged after coughing on officers, claiming to have coronavirus: London police

London police have laid four charges, including two counts of assaulting a peace officer, after police say a Guelph man purposefully coughed on officers and claimed to have coronavirus while attempting to resist arrest for breach of recognizance.

According to police, officers were called to a disturbance outside a residence on Stuart Street, northeast of Adelaide and Quebec streets, at roughly 7:15 p.m. Saturday.

Police say the suspect was arrested for breach of recognizance, but during his arrest he began to struggle with officers.

“He intentionally began coughing in the direction of the officers’ faces, stating he had the coronavirus,” a police release stated.

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“While being placed in the back of the police cruiser, the man kicked in the direction of police.”

One officer sustained minor injuries in the incident.

A Guelph man, 57, has been charged with resisting arrest, failing to comply with release conditions, and two counts of assaulting a peace officer.

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Coronavirus: What we know about Quebec’s plan to reopen elementary schools, daycares

The Quebec government has unveiled its long-awaited education plan after all establishments were closed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The progressive reopening comes after the province ordered all academic institutions to close in the middle of March.

Here is what we know about how that will work.

Who is going back to school and when?

Students in elementary schools and children in daycares will be able to progressively return beginning next month. Elementary schools and daycares in zones less affected by the COVID-19 outbreak will open on May 11. This does not include any schools in the greater Montreal region, which remains the epicentre of the outbreak.

Then, if hospitalizations from COVID-19 remain stable or decrease, elementary schools in the greater Montreal region will gradually open starting on May 19.

High schools, CEGEPs and universities will remain physically closed until the next academic year begins in late August and September. CEGEPs and universities will finish their semesters online and high schools will continue with the year’s academic curriculum online.

Do students have to go back to school?

No. Attendance is not mandatory and parents may keep their children home if they choose. The provincial government stressed that neither parents nor students will be penalized if families choose to keep their young children at home.

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Are students with health conditions supposed to return to school and daycares?

The government is asking all students with health conditions to remain at home. If a student lives with a person who has a health condition that puts them at risk, students should not return to class. This also applies to students who live with seniors.

Why are high schools staying closed?


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Costumed runner brings daily joy to Winnipeg neighbourhood amid coronavirus

A Windsor Park man is lacing up his running shoes and taking to the streets to make life a little brighter for those stuck at home during the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Every afternoon for the past two weeks Noel Beckel has donned a different costume for his daily jog through the Winnipeg neighbourhood, sharing a laugh with everyone he passes.

The daily spectacle has become a must-watch event for many living along his route.

“I’ve had people come out with their kids and they just stand there and watch me go by,” says the 50-year-old father, who started running three years ago, but only recently started adding costumes to his running gear.

“They wave, they smile, and I give a wave and crack a joke of some sort and I’ll keep going.

“I can run by and make people forget their problems — even for just five minutes — that’s five minutes where somebody is smiling … you can’t put a price tag on that.”

Beckel started the now-daily routine Good Friday on a whim — dressing up in a full cow outfit for his five-kilometre jaunt — after accepting a bit of a dare from his mom.

The professional musician — stuck at home with shows cancelled due to COVID-19 — enjoyed himself and decided he’d keep it up for the rest of the weekend “to give everyone a bit of a chuckle.”

But those plans changed when he noticed he was getting a following on a community Facebook page.

“People were all of a sudden talking about this mystery runner,” he laughs.

Since then his outfits have included a pirate, Superman, a Winnipeg Blue Bomber fan (of course), Thing 2 from Dr. Seuss fame, and a french maid — complete with a frilly skirt and pink wig.

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“It’s quite entertaining, we enjoy it because we don’t know what he’s going to be wearing from day to day,” said neighbour Arlene Mousseau, who waits to cheer on Beckel from her doorstep every afternoon.

“I have something to look forward to now, instead of being on my laptop eight hours a day with nowhere to go.

“There’s hope, it’s wonderful, I love that I know that I have something to look forward to every day at two o’clock.”

And Beckel has no plans on slowing down.

He’s now posting the route online before his run so neighbours can watch out for him and tells Global News he’s going to keep up the routine — with a new costume every day — until the public health orders keeping Winnipeggers indoors are lifted.

Then he’s planning one last victory lap around the neighbourhood.

“When this is done — and we get the okay — I’m going to do one more run and I am going to hug every single last person on that route that has come out to see me,” he said.

“If I can make people smile, that’s what we need right now — we just need to smile.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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Trudeau says ‘the front line is everywhere,’ but should we compare coronavirus to war?

There is a coronavirus meme multiplying across clogged internet connections, and it goes like this: Your grandparents were called to war. You’re being asked to sit on the couch. You can do this.

The pandemic is not a war, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the House of Commons earlier this month, although that didn’t stop him — as it hasn’t stopped others — from evoking the danger and destruction of wartime.

“There is no front line marked with barbed wire, no soldiers to be destroyed across the ocean, no enemy combatants to defeat,” Trudeau said.

“The front line is everywhere: in our homes, in our hospitals and care centres, in our grocery stores and pharmacies, at our truck stops and gas stations.”

Trudeau isn’t entirely wrong, say historians and communication experts, nor are other leaders who pepper press conferences with descriptions of nurses and doctors as soldiers going to battle or describe the virus as an enemy in need of vanquishing.

But experts do worry about the ramifications of widespread use of war metaphors to guide conversations around COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, which has now infected more than two million people globally.

“The context of war justifies all kinds of behaviours and interventions and loss of rights that we would not normally submit to,” says Sarah Glassford, archivist at the University of Windsor’s Leddy Library and a historian of medicine and health.

“We would do well to think twice before we frame this entire pandemic in those terms. Are there similarities? Sure. Are they the same? No. The words we choose matter.”

War as the go-to metaphor isn’t surprising, says Joshua Greenberg, a communications and media studies professor at Carleton University in Ottawa.

Metaphors are key to storytelling, and stories help “most of us make sense of elements that are beyond our control,” Greenberg says. War metaphors, in particular, have become ubiquitous, he notes.

People writing about diseases, particularly infectious ones, have long been drawn to them. We wage war against killer germs and we sorrowfully announce when someone has died from lymphoma or carcinoma with a battle-weary “she lost her fight to cancer.”

“Over the last several decades, war has emerged as the master metaphor for addressing all of our most urgent social problems,” says Greenberg.

“War on drugs, war on poverty, war on terror and, now, a so-called war on COVID-19.”

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And while the war on drugs has been declared by global experts as a failure “with devastating consequences,” the metaphor itself isn’t entirely misused.

For Ian Mosby, the similarities between Canada in the Second World War and Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic are most noticeably reflected in the states of emergency enacted across the country.

“People are talking seriously about universal basic income, and I think that’s where the war metaphor becomes relevant,” says Mosby, an assistant professor of history at Ryerson University and author of Food Will Win the War: The Politics, Culture and Science of Food on Canada’s Home Front.

Governments grant themselves extremely broad powers during times of war. But if a peacetime focus on respecting individual liberties is one side of a continuum and autocracy the other, Jones says military metaphors can nudge us further towards the latter.

Last month, the federal government passed an $82-billion emergency coronavirus support package, although not until the draft legislation was revised to exclude proposed measures that would have granted the Liberal Party sweeping powers to spend, tax and borrow money without Parliament’s consent for 18 months.

“The risk of that, in not a literal war but in a public health situation, is you start to move fairly quickly along the use of those powers,” Jones says. “Not everyone is comfortable with the potential scope of those powers.”

Military metaphors could move us further along that continuum at a time when Canadians should be reckoning with the consequences of underfunding our public health-care system, says Greenberg.

“We have chosen to elect and in some cases re-elect governments that have eroded our public health infrastructure,” he says.

“For decades, we have failed as a nation — as citizens who vote, as political leaders who make choices — to even properly fund enough acute health-care beds to keep up with population growth.”

As his Carleton University colleague, Frances Woolley, wrote last month: “A cold hard look at the numbers suggests our hospitals cannot cope with the most flattened of curves. Indeed, they cannot cope with any kind of curve at all.”

But rather than reckoning with that, Jones says using war metaphors propels us on a hunt for our so-called enemy virus.

“A virus often needs to be personified, and I think it’s really important that people think about the implications of personifying the virus, whether it be discrimination against people of Asian descent or looking for scapegoats,” she says.

Just look through history, says Glassford, and you’ll see that two features prevalent in almost every epidemic or pandemic are panic and the search for a scapegoat, which “can produce pretty awful results.”

Anyone deemed “other” because of their race, ethnicity, language or sexuality has historically taken the blame for outbreaks, she says, be it the Black Plague, smallpox, cholera, syphilis or the initial wave of HIV-AIDS in the late 20th century.

If there is a lesson there, Jones says, it’s that consensus, education and shared community are key — not policing powers.

“It’s hard to talk about public trust and co-operation on one hand and militarized language on the other,” she says. “To see it seep away right now is a little bit troubling as there are going to be some, hopefully not lasting, repercussions.”

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