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Ontario health units report 1.9% increase in cases; Five more dead at Altamont care home bringing death toll to 46 – Toronto Star

The latest novel coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Tuesday (this file is no longer update. Click here to read the latest.). Web links to longer stories if available.

8:45 p.m.: At least 10 taxi and limo drivers working out of Pearson International Airport have died since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, including three more since Friday, the drivers’ union says.

Those drivers include Karam Singh Punian, who died Monday, and Akashdip Grewal, who died Friday, said Rajinder Aujla, president of the Airport Taxi Association, which represents about 700 drivers operating about 350 vehicles licenced to pick up passengers at Pearson.

Full story by Kevin McGran here.

6:20 pm: Mount Pleasant Cemetery Group is looking at opening its cemeteries on the day before and the day after Mother’s Day to allow people to pay their respects to loved ones who have passed away, Mayor John Tory said, speaking at the daily city hall press conference.

Tory said the decision was discussed with the cemetery’s provincial regulator and the city’s medical officer of health, following on the heels of discussions with Coun. Josh Matlow.

He said families will have to abide by social distancing rules and avoid mingling with others at the cemetery, and respect current provincial regulations limiting the size of groups to a maximum of five people.

6:05 p.m.: Canada is recording its second COVID-19 death among its prison inmate population.

Correctional Service Canada said today an inmate from the Federal Training Centre facility in Laval Que., Montreal’s northern suburb, died of complications related to COVID-19 on Sunday.

Another federal inmate, detained at Mission Medium Institution in B.C., died of COVID-19 on April 15.

Mission Institution is experiencing the largest prison outbreak in Canada, with at least 133 inmates and staff testing positive for COVID-19.

5:50 p.m.: Alberta is reporting 57 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths.

That brings the total number of cases in the province to 5,893.

The government says 106 people have died and 3,219 have recovered.

5:45 p.m.: Toronto Mayor John Tory said Tuesday that there have been preliminary talks with Major League Baseball’s Blue Jays and the NBA’s Raptors about a return to action as restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic begin to ease.

Tory said the city is working with the Ontario provincial government on decision-making regarding the Raptors, and that “things are moving forward quite nicely.”

He said he expects there will be some news to report, but did not go into detail. The NBA is currently planning to allow teams to open practice facilities starting Friday, though government clearance would be required.

5:25 p.m.: Alberta politicians are to return to the legislature on Wednesday to debate bills tied to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Government house leader Jason Nixon says he will introduce legislation underpinning an earlier announcement to allow people to delay paying utility bills.

3:55 p.m.: Health officials say almost all of the newest cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan are from a remote northern community experiencing an outbreak.

The province says 18 of the 20 cases announced today are from in and around La Loche, a Dene village 600 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon.

Saskatchewan has 487 total cases with 310 people having recovered.

The death toll remains at six.

3 p.m.: Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball says 90 staff members at Eastern Health were in contact with a patient who has tested positive for COVID-19 this past weekend.

He says all the staff are now in self-isolation and have been tested for the virus.

Ball says all the results that have come back so far are negative.

2:05 p.m.: Manitoba is reporting one new COVID-19 case, bringing the total to 282 — 271 confirmed, 11 probable.

The province is also reporting the death of a man in his 70s, bringing the total of deaths to seven.

Health officials say they are also dealing with a small cluster of five cases at an unnamed workplace in the Prairie Mountain health region, and say the workplace is not related to health care.

1:45 p.m.: The province is also reporting four new deaths at Meighen Manor, the long-term-care home near Yonge and Davisville in midtown Toronto. That brings the overall death toll at the 168-bed home run by Salvation Army to 38.

On Monday, the province listed 34 deaths at the facility. The latest figures Tuesday show the facility has 64 residents and 45 staff who have tested positive for COVID-19.

The Star reported last month on the efforts by two nurses there to warn executives about the outbreak.

1:35 p.m. (updated): “Some just aren’t performing,” Premier Doug Ford says of some of the 34 local medical officers of health in “certain regions.” “Start picking up your socks, and do more testing.”

1:30 p.m.: Police in Vancouver are investigating the latest assault against a person of Asian descent after a man walked up to a woman at a bus stop downtown and punched her in the face.

Police did not attribute a motive to the latest incident. The city has seen a spike in reports of anti-Asian, hate-motivated crimes, police have said recently. There have been a total of 20 anti-Asian hate crimes reported to Vancouver police so far this year, compared to 12 last year.

1:20 p.m.: The province is reporting five new deaths at the Altamont care home in Scarborough, bringing the home’s death toll to 46.

The care home also has 76 confirmed cases among residents and 60 confirmed staff cases, according to Ontario’s latest numbers released Tuesday morning. On Monday, the provincial website listed 41 deaths at the facility.

Altamont has struggled with an outbreak inside the 159-bed facility over the past few weeks. In late April, a mobile team of Scarborough Health Network emergency-department nurses, the first sent by the hospital to any outside facility during the pandemic, completed the testing of all residents at Altamont for COVID-19.

Christine Mandegarian, a personal support worker at the home for three decades, died April 15 from COVID-19.

1:05 p.m.: Canadian Music Week has cancelled its 2020 festival — its 38th edition — after trying to postpone the annual event to September. This year’s lineup initially offered such acts as homegrown punk stars Pup and George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic.

1 p.m.: Ontario Premier Doug Ford is expected to address reporters at his daily briefing. A livestream of his news conference is available at thestar.com

12:55 p.m.: Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting no new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, keeping the provincial total at 259 cases.

The province’s chief medical officer of health says there are currently four people in hospital and two of them are in intensive care.

She says 241 people are considered recovered.

12:51 p.m.: Canada’s chief public health officer says the daily increase of COVID-19 cases in Canada has slowed to about three per cent.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is promising a $252-million aid package for Canada’s agriculture and food industries in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Theresa Tam says that trend, coupled with statistics showing the percentage of tests coming back positive is going down, even as the number of tests goes up, signifies that the epidemic in Canada is slowing down.

Meanwhile, Tam says the pediatric network in Canada is monitoring children for signs of the inflammatory syndrome known as Kawasaki disease, which some countries have found in some children with COVID-19.

But Tam says there are no firm conclusions in Canada about the links between COVID-19 and inflammatory diseases.

12:40 p.m.: The number of people in Canada killed by COVID-19 was set to pass the 4,000 mark on Tuesday as provinces eased anti-pandemic restrictions and the government announced new aid for farmers.

The grim fatality milestone came as the country’s two largest provinces each reported a jump in novel coronavirus-related deaths, although the overall increase in new cases was relatively modest. Canada has now seen more than 61,000 cases.

12:34 p.m.: The Manitoba government will be mailing out cheques to seniors to help them deal with costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Premier Brian Pallister says starting this month, the $200 tax credit will be sent to anyone over 65 who filed 2018 tax returns.

The new benefit is not limited to low-income earners, and will not be treated as taxable income. Pallister says it will help seniors pay for grocery deliveries and other costs they are facing.

12:10 p.m.: The federal government says almost 7.5 million people have received emergency federal aid since the program launched almost a month ago.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit provides up to $2,000 per month to anyone who either lost a job, earns less than $1,000, or whose job prospects have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal figures posted today show 7.49 million people have applied for the benefit since it launched on April 6.

The government has said the benefit is taxable, but it won’t seek to collect the money until next year.

11:50 a.m.: Ontario’s regional health units are reporting another period of low COVID-19 case growth while deaths continue to be reported at high levels, according to the Star’s latest count.

As of 11 a.m. Tuesday, Ontario’s regional health units are reporting a total of 19,296 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19, including 1,439 deaths.

The deaths total represent a very large jump from the same time Monday morning, however, the size of that increase can be attributed partly to a change in case reporting in Toronto that led to a larger than normal reported increase there in the evening. That came after the city did not put out an update Sunday afternoon, and instead released nearly two days’ worth of data Monday.

Still, the increase in deaths in Toronto — which has seen by far the most cases and deaths of any Ontario health unit — was large even accounting for a missing day; the 51 new fatal cases announced Monday were the second-most in any 48-hour period in the city so far.

Likewise, the 146 deaths reported across the province since 11 a.m. Sunday would be among the worst two-day stretches the province has seen.

Meantime: The growth in new COVID-19 cases has slowed from the highest levels seen in mid-April, a trend that has continued over the last 48 hours. The 739 new cases reported in that period work out to about two per cent average daily growth, among the lowest the Star has counted and down dramatically from March.

In the second half of that month, the province saw an average daily growth of 20 per cent, a rate that doubled Ontario’s case count about every four days. In the first half of April that rate slowed to an average of 9.5 per cent daily growth, or doubling about every eight days. The second half of the month average about four per cent growth, or a doubling time of around two-and-a-half weeks.

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

In its daily release, the province earlier Monday said 1,043 patients are now hospitalized with COVID-19, including 223 in intensive care, of whom 166 are on a ventilator — numbers that fluctuated in recent weeks. The province also says nearly 13,000 patients who have tested positive for the coronavirus have now recovered from the disease — about two-thirds 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 — 1,361 — 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.

11:30 a.m.: Ontario health units are reporting a 1.9 per cent in new cases, or 363 in the last 24 hours, to 19,296 overall. The health units are reporting 120 more deaths to 1,439 but this includes two days of Toronto data (this news item will be updated).

11:10 a.m.: Nova Scotia is reporting three more deaths related to COVID-19, bringing the total number of deaths to 41. Health officials say the deaths occurred at the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax.

As of today, Nova Scotia is reporting six new cases of COVID-19, for a total of 991 confirmed cases. They say 652 people have now recovered and their cases of COVID-19 are considered resolved.

11:10 a.m.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is promising a $252-million aid package for Canada’s agriculture and food industries in the COVID-19 pandemic.

He says $77 million of that will go to measures to keep workers in food processing safe with protective equipment and by supporting physical distancing in workplaces.

Meat-packing plants, in particular, have seen large outbreaks of the virus that causes COVID-19.

The package includes money for beef and pork producers holding animals they can’t sell, a credit program for the dairy industry and a $50-million fund to buy food that spoils and send it to groups such as food banks.

11 a.m.: Trudeau is expected to address reporters at his daily briefing. A livestream of his news conference will be available at thestar.com

10:58 a.m.: Ontario is reporting that there were 10,654 tests completed in the past 24 hours, the lowest total in five days.

The number of people in intensive care units and on ventilators with the virus dropped from the previous day.

10:45 a.m.: Health units across Ontario are reporting some of the biggest spikes in deaths since the COVID-19 outbreak began. Here’s what the numbers tell us about what’s happening right now with the spread of COVID-19. Take a look at these four charts compiled by the Star.

10:30 a.m.: For much of the last two months, President Donald Trump has rarely left the grounds of the White House as he’s dealt with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and sought to minimize his own exposure to the disease.

But that changes Tuesday, when Trump is scheduled to travel to Arizona to visit a Honeywell facility that makes N95 masks in what the president suggests will mark the return to more regular travel.

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9:35 a.m.: New York state is reporting more than 1,700 previously undisclosed deaths at nursing homes and adult care facilities as the state faces scrutiny over how it’s protected vulnerable residents during the coronavirus pandemic.

At least 4,813 people have died from COVID-19 in the state’s nursing homes since March 1, according to a tally released by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration late Monday that, for the first time, includes people believed to have been killed by the coronavirus before their diagnoses could be confirmed by a lab test.

9 a.m.: For two months, unions for front-line staff, seniors’ advocates and long-term care experts say they continued to sound the alarm in conversations with both the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Long-Term Care.

They say the long-term care sector was overlooked as strained acute care resources were shored up in response to dire international reports of overwhelmed intensive care units.

Meanwhile, the well-known cracks in Ontario’s nursing home system were allowed to become deadly sinkholes, according to experts and front-line staff, as well as allegations made in court.

Read the investigation from the Star’s Alyshah Hasham and Jesse McLean.

8:20 a.m.: It’s not the spring real estate watchers were expecting eight weeks ago. But even as home sales fell through the floor in April, prices held steady in the Toronto area — up 0.1 per cent or $1,000 year over year with an average transaction price of $821,392.

A continued decline in the number of homes listed on the market relative to the number of sales helped stabilize prices in the midst of the unprecedented public health lockdown, said the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) on Tuesday.

The average price of a detached house in Toronto fell 7.8 per cent to $1.25 million in April, compared to last year. Regionwide, detached homes dipped 3.5 per cent to average $983,630

Read the story from the Star’s Tess Kalinowski.

8 a.m. French scientists say they may have identified a possible case of the new coronavirus dating back to December — about a month before the first cases were officially confirmed in Europe.

In a study published in the International Journal of Microbial Agents, doctors at a hospital north of Paris reviewed retrospective samples of 14 patients treated for atypical pneumonia between early December and mid-January. Among those were the records of Amirouche Hammar, a fishmonger in his 40s from Algeria who has lived in France for years and had no recent travel history.

Hammar told French broadcaster BFM-TV on Tuesday that he drove himself to a hospital emergency unit at 5 a.m. one morning in late December because he felt very sick, with chest pains and breathing difficulties.

7:48 a.m. World stock markets and the price of oil rose on Tuesday as more countries eased restrictions on business and public life, raising hopes for a recovery from a historic economic plunge.

Shares advanced in Paris, London and Hong Kong and Wall Street futures suggested a rise on the open. Markets in Tokyo, Shanghai and Seoul were closed for holidays.

Many European countries that have seen new infections tapering off amid strict social distancing measures and nationwide lockdowns have begun relaxing some restrictions while watching to see whether numbers began to rise again. In Asia, China and South Korea were slowly resuming public events after months of containment efforts.

7:45 a.m. Investigations into four COVID-19 outbreaks at Toronto Western Hospital have identified 19 patients and 46 staff who tested positive for the coronavirus, triggering an “urgent” directive over the weekend that caused hospital disruptions and confusion for medical residents who failed to report for duty on Monday, the Star has learned.

7:34 a.m. India will deploy commercial jets, military transport planes and naval warships to bring back hundreds of thousands of citizens stranded across the world, in what’s set to be the biggest-ever peacetime repatriation exercise in history.

The first phase of the drive is estimated to help about 1.8 million Indian citizens return home, according to the Indian Navy. That far outnumbers the 170,000 people India airlifted from Kuwait in 1990 — which inspired a Bollywood blockbuster — and bigger than the 150,000 the U.K. evacuated last year, following the collapse of tour operator Thomas Cook Group Plc.

The plan to evacuate citizens follows India’s move to partially ease movement restrictions in many parts of the world’s second-most populous nation after 40 days of strict stay-at-home orders. Millions of Indians were stuck around the world, from the Gulf to Europe and the U.S., after Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed the lockdown on March 25 to check the spread of the virus. The outbreak has already infected more than 46,000 in India, and killed almost 1,600.

7:23 a.m. Bank of Montreal anticipates that as much as 80 per cent of its staff — or about 36,000 employees — may adopt new flexible arrangements that blend working from home with going into the office even after the Covid-19 pandemic subsides.

The virus prompted the bank to make a sweeping reappraisal of workplace policies, according to Mona Malone, chief human resources officer. She said the lender expects that 30 per cent to 80 per cent of employees may continue to work from home at least some of the time. The Toronto-based bank employed about 45,000 people as of Jan. 31.

“We’ve been able to maintain continuity of banking services with far more people working outside the office than we ever thought possible,” Malone said Monday in an interview. “We thought it was critical that we were in the office to make something happen, and what we’ve proven through this is that’s actually not the case.”

Chief Executive Officer Darryl White has said “a 2.0 version” of the workplace may include the blended home-and-office arrangements, as big employers worldwide reconfigure offices and routines. Malone said Canadian and U.S. branch employees have “by and large” been going into work during the crisis along with a “small amount” of technology and operations employees, while 95 per cent of those in office towers have been working from home.

7:22 a.m. Pfizer Inc. has administered the first U.S. patients with its experimental vaccines to fight the disease caused by the coronavirus, part of a bid to shave years off of the typical time it takes to develop a new inoculation.

The trials are being conducted at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine and the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the drugmaker said Tuesday.”The short, less than four-month time-frame in which we’ve been able to move from preclinical studies to human testing is extraordinary,” Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said in a statement.

Preclinical studies are what companies do in animals or in the lab before they test vaccines in humans. Drugmakers have been working with regulators to compress development times to stop the spread of the virus, which has infected more than 3.5 million people globally and killed more than 250,000.

New York-based Pfizer is working with BioNTech SE of Germany. The companies started testing the inoculations in patients in Germany in late April. Vaccine trials normally start by looking at safety, but in order to hasten the development of a Covid-19 vaccine, the drugmakers are looking at both safety and the immune-system response from the experimental shots.

7:09 a.m. Thomson Reuters Corp. says it expects revenue to fall in the second quarter and is reducing its expectations for growth this year due to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company says total company revenues for the second quarter are expected to decline between one and two per cent, while organic revenues are expected to decline between two and three per cent.

For the full year, Thomson Reuters says it now expects total revenue growth between one and two per cent, while organic revenue growth is expected to be between zero and one per cent. That compared with a forecast in February by the company for total revenue growth between 4.5 and 5.5 per cent and organic revenue growth of between 4.0 and 4.5 per cent.

The updated outlook came as Thomson Reuters, which keeps its books in U.S. dollars, reported a first-quarter profit of $193 million (U.S.) or 39 cents per diluted share, up from $104 million (U.S.) or 20 cents per diluted share a year ago.

6:04 a.m.: The Trump administration is making ever louder pronouncements casting blame on China for the COVID-19 pandemic, aiming to sidestep domestic criticism of the president’s own response, tarnish China’s global reputation and give the U.S. leverage on trade and other aspects of U.S.-China competition.

President Donald Trump has vowed to penalize China for what U.S. officials have increasingly described as a pattern of deceit that denied the world precious time to prepare for the pandemic. The opening salvo isn’t in the form of tariffs or sanctions, but in a one-sided accounting of China’s behaviour that could yank the Chinese lower on the global reputation meter.

The State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the White House have all launched public efforts in recent days to lay bare what they say is clear evidence that China tried to mask the scale of the outbreak and then refused to provide critical access to U.S. and global scientists that could have saved lives. More than 250,000 people have died globally from COVID-19, including more than 68,000 in the U.S.

5:30 a.m.: China reported only a single new case of coronavirus and no new deaths, marking three weeks since it recorded a COVID-19 fatality.

The National Health Commission said 395 people remained under treatment in hospital, while 949 people were under isolation and observation for having tested positive for the virus but showing no symptoms, or being suspected cases. China has recorded 4,633 deaths from the virus among 82,881 cases, but strict travel restrictions, testing, quarantining and case tracing policies appear to have stemmed the virus’s spread as warm summer arrives in much of the country.

5:25 a.m.: South Korea on Tuesday reported its lowest daily increase in coronavirus cases since Feb. 18, continuing a downward trend as the country restarts professional sports and prepares to reopen schools.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday reported three fresh infections and two more virus-related deaths, bringing national totals to 10,804 cases and 254 fatalities.

4:10 a.m. As provinces start to tiptoe toward normalcy by gently lifting restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, a new poll suggests Canadians are largely happy with the pace.

People in most provinces taking steps to reopen were between 60 and 70 per cent supportive of those moves, while 16 to 30 per cent would like to see their government slow down a little.

Some provinces have already begun loosening physical distancing measures put in place as the growth in the number of COVID-19 cases started picking up steam in March.

In Quebec, which has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Canada, the province is allowing some retail stores to reopen outside of Montreal with an eye to reopen the manufacturing and construction sectors next week. On Monday it pushed back the reopening of non-essential stores in the Montreal area at least another week.

Ontario, with the second-highest number of confirmed cases in the country, is allowing the partial reopening of some seasonal businesses. Manitoba has gone even further, allowing slightly restricted access to libraries, museums, and restaurant patios.

4 a.m.: The Trudeau government is expected to announce Tuesday significant, targeted financial support for farmers hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcement will come just as some farmers are making decisions about whether to plant crops and others are considering whether they need to cull their cattle, pigs and poultry because of the reduced capacity of meat processing plants, which have proven particularly vulnerable to the spread of the deadly coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

12:48 a.m.: A Canadian software developer says he has resigned his position as a vice president with Amazon over the firing of employees who he says fought for better COVID-19 protection in the company’s warehouses.

Tim Bray, who says he worked with Amazon Web Services, wrote in a blog post that he “quit in dismay at Amazon firing of two whistleblowers who were making noise about warehouse employees frightened of COVID-19.”

Bray says some workers, who had been active with a group of Amazon employees pushing the company for leadership on the global climate emergency, were contacted by Amazon warehouse staff concerned about what they considered lack of coronavirus protection.

He says the employees with the climate group responded by internally promoting a petition and an April 16 video call with guest activist Naomi Klein, and made an announcement using an internal mailing list.

Bray says two workers who were leaders with the climate group were immediately fired.

Monday 8 p.m.: Premier Doug Ford is calling for a national strategy on contact tracing.

Ford says he spoke with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland on Monday about the matter and planned to make the case to his provincial counterparts this week.

“We need a national plan for contact tracing. Right now each individual province is doing it, but we need a national plan, to work with the federal government and all the provinces, the 10 provinces and the three territories,” said Ford.

Monday 6 p.m.: Ontario’s regional health units are reporting a total of 19,241 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19, including 1,427 deaths, according to the Star’s latest count.

Those numbers represent a large jump from the same time Sunday evening, however, the size of that increase can be attributed partly to a change in case reporting in Toronto that led to a larger than normal reported increase there Monday evening.

At its daily news conference, the city reported another 311 new cases and 51 more deaths since its last report, but because the city did not release an update Sunday it was not possible to calculate the increase over the last 24 hours.

Meanwhile, the daily growth in new cases has continued to slow over the last 48 hours. Since late Saturday, Ontario has seen another 781 cases, or a daily increase of about two per cent over two days.

Read more of Monday’s coverage here.

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