A summary of developments of Tuesday, October 13 follows.
Federal Government Relief Measures
- There were no new federal government relief measures announced today.
Federal Government Briefings
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provided a COVID-19 update. Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc, Dr. Tam, and Dr. Njoo, the Chief and Deputy Chief Public Health Officers of Canada, joined the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister and Minister LeBlanc did not make new announcements today. They reiterated the federal government's commitment to support Canadians amid the global pandemic.
The Prime Minister reminded the public that the application process for the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) opened yesterday. He reported that 240,000 applications had already been submitted to the Canada Revenue Agency. Applications for the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) and the Canada Recovery Caregiver Benefit (CRCB) opened on October 5, 2020.
The Prime Minister also reported that Pfizer Canada ULC/BioNTech SE submitted for authorization review its COVID-19 vaccine application on October 9. This is the second supplier after AstraZeneca to seek regulatory approval from Health Canada for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
(Note: The clinical trial of Johnson & Johnson is on pause as one subject has developed an illness. The Government of Canada has signed a contract with Johnson & Johnson for up to 38 million doses of its vaccine candidate.)
With COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care homes, the Prime Minister expressed his preference for harmonization of standards across Canada and said he was looking forward to discussing the issue during his 20th call with the Premiers of Provinces and Territories this week.
There are 182,839 new COVID-19 cases, including 9,627 deaths. Nationally, there are close to 19,000 active cases.
Labs have tested over 77,000 people daily during the past week with 2.4 per cent testing positive. While there are reporting limitations over the long weekend, Dr. Tam reported that Ontario and Quebec continue to be the main drivers of new cases based on available information. In addition, some of the smaller provinces such as Manitoba, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick have reported a notable increase in new cases.
Dr. Tam and Dr. Njoo continued to urge everyone to keep their number of contacts with others low, particularly in areas of high incidence, to enable public health authorities control the spread of the virus and manage resurgences.
Journalists asked Dr. Tam and Dr. Njoo to describe the risks associated with Halloween. Both Dr. Tam and Dr. Njoo discouraged indoor gatherings. Regarding door to door trick or treating, they emphasized the need to respect the basic public health measures– physical distancing, wearing a mask and frequent hand washing. They said the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) would soon post guidance for Halloween on its website. Dr. Tam gave a preview of some of PHAC's tips such as handing pre-packaged treats to avoid children from rummaging in candy bowls, maintaining physical distancing by using a hockey stick or other similar tool to give the candy to children.
Statement of Ontario Premier Doug Ford
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction Prabmeet Sarkaria, and MPP Christine Hogarth addressed Friday's closure by shining a spotlight on small businesses, specifically entertainment and food and beverage businesses.
Premier Ford announced $300 for local restaurants and other businesses impacted by the new public health measures to help offset fixed costs, including property taxes, hydro and natural gas bills.
Associate Minister Sarkaria also emphasized Ontario's Main Street Recovery Plan would permit alcoholic beverage take out from restaurants, modernized regulations for around the clock delivery, increase in local produce for sale and grants for 23,000 small businesses.
All the elected officials thanked the public for their understanding as we navigate the recent spike and return to Phase 2 in selected jurisdictions. Premier Ford reiterated how upset he was that he needed to shut small businesses, but emphasized that these measures are essential to ensuring that the number of daily cases returns to an acceptable level. All three officials also emphasized ordering take out as a way to support those businesses that were hit hard by Friday's announcement.
During the question and answer period, Premier Ford said that no other public health regions were planned to move back to Phase 2, but that he was listening to the medical advisor team and taking direction from them. Premier Ford also indicated that there was no "magic number" that Ontario would need to get to before the restrictions would be lifted. He emphasized again that this was an evolving situation and that as of now "we're looking at the next two incubation cycles and trying to control the numbers as best as possible."
Premier Ford also addressed a question about bringing the Red Cross into long-term care homes, saying that it was all hands on deck and that he would be willing to accept help from wherever it came.
Premier Ford finished by answering a question about fake news dissemination, stating that this crisis is real. The measures taken were not done so in accordance with some ulterior agenda, but rather to keep Ontario residents safe. He reiterated that he was relying on the medical advice team, and that he was trying to get people back to work. Premier Ford ended on a positive note, saying that another 169,000 jobs were created in September, but it is a long way to go for a full economic recovery.
This morning the office of the Premier issued a press release announcing a new agreement between Ontario and the federal government for an additional $11.6 million from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to help support efforts by Ontario producers to stop the spread of COVID-19 on their farms. Actions such as building physical barriers for worker separation, upgrading HVAC systems and enhancing hand-washing facilities will be eligible for this funding. The federal funding that will be delivered by Ontario is in addition to the Ontario government's commitment in June of up to $15 million to support workplace safety enhancements in the sector through the Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection Program.
Statement of Quebec Premier François Legault
Quebec Premier François Legault provided a COVID-19 update today. Minister of Health and Social Services Christian Dubé and the Director of Public Health Dr. Horacio Arruda joined the Premier.
Quebec public health authorities reported 815 new cases of COVID-19 today, the smallest number of cases since the end of September.
Premier Legault said he was cautiously optimistic that Quebec had reached a plateau in its second wave of the coronavirus. The province is averaging 1,000 new cases per day as opposed to a range of 800-1300 cases, as reported in the last two weeks.
Premier Legault said it appears that restrictive measures put in place by the province at the beginning of the month in the worst-hit areas are bearing fruit and thanked Quebecers for respecting the tightened public health measures. He urged Quebecers to continue avoiding indoor gatherings.
Premier Legault announced the regions of the Montérégie, all of Centre-du-Québec and the Capitale-Nationale, including Charlevoix were elevated to the red-zone, the maximum COVID-19 alert level. Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean was elevated to the orange zone. The restrictions linked to the orange and red-alert levels should be in force by Thursday or Friday.
Regarding the rapid antigen tests, Minister Dubé said the province would deploy the tests in coming weeks. He acknowledged that antigen tests are a good complement to the PCR tests - which enable large volume testing - but are not a replacement to the PCR tests. The antigens tests do have a role to play in the context of an overall testing strategy, as they are valuable when used in schools, workplace settings and remote areas.
Minister Dubé expressed his satisfaction with the COVID-19 app as a tool to facilitate contact tracing. He reiterated the government's commitment to avoid elevating all regions of Quebec to the red COVID-19 alert zone because the government wishes to prevent a wide scale closure of schools and businesses.
Minister Dubé said he was satisfied with the new 7,000 orderlies that were hired to work in long-term care homes. He confirmed that 3,000 more orderlies would start soon.
Dr. Arruda said it was doubtful Quebecers would soon enjoy more freedom from public health restrictions as they did in the summer. Premier Legault added, "It's too soon to say what will be in place in three months or six months, but we know that we will need some measures for many months because we don't expect to have a vaccine by December for everybody."
Elsewhere in Canada
On October 9, Alberta Health Services announced 277 new cases of COVID-19 and one death. Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hinshaw will report on new cases for the long weekend later today.
The province released an updated relaunch guidance document for places of worship.
The province announced that since construction began on the Keystone XL pipeline in July, more than 1,500 Albertans are back to work and more than $250 million has been injected into the local economy. Premier Jason Kenney stated that, "pipelines are critical to [Alberta's] recovery from the global recession" as part of Alberta's Recovery Plan.
Alberta's government, together with the Canada Infrastructure Bank and eight irrigation districts, is modernizing irrigation infrastructure to create jobs, expand agriculture production and diversify value-added food processing. An $815 million investment will modernize irrigation district infrastructure and increase water storage capacity, creating up to 6,800 direct and indirect permanent jobs and up to 1,280 construction jobs as part of Alberta's Recovery Plan.
On October 9, British Columbia's Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Deputy Minister of Health Stephen Brown announced 119 new cases of COVID-19. There were 68 individuals in hospital, 19 of whom were in intensive care. There were 1,406 active cases of COVID-19 in the province and 3,180 people under active public health monitoring because of known exposures. Dr. Henry and Deputy Minister Brown will provide an update on cases for the long weekend later today.
The British Columbia Centre for Disease Control released a new resource for safer celebrations.
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