COVID-19 Backgrounder:

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Announces the league will postpone its games. Image credit: voxx.com

By: Laura Steiner

COVID-19 has now been designated as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).  The group took the step because of the scale of transmission, and out of fear that some countries were not taking it seriously.  “This is a controllable pandemic,” Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus said.  The symptoms include:

  • fever
  • cough
  • difficulty breathing

There is no specific treatment or vaccine for the virus.  Complications can include pneumonia, organ failure, and death.

Prevention:

  • wash hands often with soap, or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Sneeze/ cough into your sleeve
  • avoid touching eyes/throat/mouth
  • avoid contact with people who are sick.

Trudeau to Self Isolate:

As of March 11, there have been a total of 103 cases nation-wide breaking down to:

  • Ontario: 42
  • British Columbia: 39
  • Quebec: 7
  • Alberta: 14
  • Repatriated: 1

The federal government has announced the establishment of a $1 billion-COVID-19 Response fund.  This in addition to enhancing work-sharing programs, and waiving the wait period for EI sick benefits.  The federal government will also provide $50 million to the provinces for healthcare service needs.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced he is self-isolating.  His decision follows Sophie Gregoire Trudeau’s return from a London UK speaking engagement.  She has reported symptoms, and is being tested:

 

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, and Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan have also self-isolated.  The federal government has set-up a website.    Candidates for the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC)’ s leadership have suspended campaign events.

Ontario’s Response:

The Province of Ontario is establishing several assessment centres in areas that experience a sudden growth in testing.  The first centres will be located in: Brampton Civic, Ottawa Hospital, North York General Hospital, Mackenzie Health, Scarborough Health Network, and Trillium Health partners.  More will be established in the coming weeks.

Ontario has also approved new physician billing codes that will enable doctors to conduct screening.  The province also plans to launch a self-assessment tool as well.  “We are relentlessly focused on planning for any scenario,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said.

Halton/Milton:

The Region of Halton has responsibility for public health service in the communities of Milton, Oakville, Halton Hills, and Burlington.  The Region of Halton has so far reported two cases.  The first identified as a 32-year old woman from Burlington who travelled from Hawaii, Saturday. She first experienced symptoms Monday.

The second is an Oakville resident in her 40s with a recent travel history to Libera, Costa Rica.  Public Health officials are asking passengers on the following  flights to self-monitor for symptoms:

  • March 7: Toronto to Libera, Costa Rica on WestJet flight 2644
  • March 9:  Liberia, Costa Rica to Toronto on WestJet flight 2643

She was tested at Joseph Brant Hospital.  “Our hospital is taking all necessary precautions to keep our patients, our visitors, and physicians and staff safe,” President and Chief Executive Officer at Joseph Brant Hospital Eric Vandewall said.

Public Health officials believe the risk to residents remains low.  “I would like to reassure residents that the risk in our community remains low at this time and we are working to identify known contacts and assess any potential health risks,” Halton Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hamidah Meghani said.  The Region asks that residents contact public health at: 311, 905-805-6000 or 1-866-442-5866 if they have a fever or difficulty breathing and have done any of the following:

  • Travelled outside Canada in the 14 days before onset of illness
  • Close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 or
  • Close contact with a person with acute respiratory illness who has travelled to affected areas within 14 days prior to their illness onset.

The Region of Halton has a page dedicated to COVID-19 here

NBA Suspends Play, Junos Cancelled

The NBA became the first professional sports league to suspend its season following the announcement that a Utah Jazz player as preliminarily tested positive. The Toronto Raptors have decided to test everyone who travelled with the team, and have them enter self-isolation for 14-days.  The Raptors played the Jazz Monday to close their most recent road trip.

The NHL, MLS, and National Lacrosse league have all followed suit.  Major League Baseball (MLB) is expected to announce a suspension to spring training after a conference call this afternoon.

Cancelled events include the Mompreneur conference, and the Junos.

Update: 12/3/2020: Ontario Schools to close until April 5

The Ontario government has decided to close all publicly funded schools. The announcement was made following an order in council signed by the Lieutenant-Governor.   The closure will last until April 5; two weeks beyond  March Break.

Update: 10:30 pm- Gregoire Trudeau tests positive, Cases rise

Sophie Gregoire Trudeau has tested positive for the Corona virus.  Gregoire Trudeau started experiencing symptoms following a trip to London, UK.  She released a statement that reads in part: “Being in quarantine at home is nothing compared to other Canadian families  who might be going through this and for those facing more serious health concerns.”  Her symptoms are described as mild, and she is  taking all the recommended precautions.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the decision earlier today to self-isolate out of an abudance of caution.  He is said to be in good health, and is working from home.  Today he had conversations with the President of the United States, Prime Minister of Great Britain, and the Prime Minister of Italy.  Trudeau will remain in isolation for 14 days.

As of March 12, Canada has 138 cases of COVID-19.  They breakdown as follows:

  • British Columbia: 46
  • Alberta: 19
  • Saskatchewan: 1 “probable”
  • Manitoba: 1 “Probable”
  • Ontario: 59
  • Quebec: 13
  • New Brunswick: 1 probable
  • Repatriated Canadians: 1

Update: 13/3/2020: Parliament Suspended, Milton DBIA Cancels Easter Egg Hunt 

Parliament has been suspended until April 20, at 11am.  The decision taken in response to COVID-19 was reached with unanimous consent of all parties.  The federal budget will likely be re-scheduled.  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to speak at 12pm on further measures.  Trudeau continues to work while in self-isolation.  Ontario had no new cases as of March 12, at 5:30 pm.  The CN Tower has plans to close as of the end of today, until April 14.

Milton Cancellations:

The Downtown Milton BIA has decided to cancel its annual Easter Egg Hunt. They made the announcement in a tweet citing health and safety concerns.

Our annual Easter Egg Hunt is one of our most anticipated events of the year. Despite our excitement about the event, the health & safety of our members, attendees, volunteers & staff is our concern. We look forward to celebrating with the community when this crisis has passed.

The Milton Navy Cadets’ League is monitoring the situation, but will proceed as scheduled. “At present we have been following direction from the Department of National Defence and the Navy League of Canada,” they said in a statement posted to their website.  All trips have been cancelled.

Update 4pm: Ontario Announces Stakeholder Groups, Trudeau Announces More Measures

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to Canadians from the cottage at Rideau Hall.  He warned against international travel, and limited inbound flights.  The federal government announce other measures including a ban on cruise ships carrying over 500 people from docking at Canadian ports until July.

The province of Ontario meanwhile is now addressing the $74 billion heritage, sport, and culture industries.  Health Minister Christine Elliott, and Minister Lisa MacLeod have formed a series of advisory groups with some of the industry’s leading stakeholders to provide them with updates on the impact of COVID-19. The industry includes airlines, hotels, restauranteurs, film and television producers as well as attractions.

The Town of Milton has set up a page on its website regarding COVID-19.  They report that all programs and events will continue as scheduled.  They are increasing cleaning procedures at their facilities.  There are currently 0 cases of COVID-19 in Milton.  The two positive cases in Halton have been identified as one Burlington, and one Oakville resident.

Terra Greenhouses has announced the cancellation of their Winter market at both Milton, and Hamilton locations.  “While we understand from the public health agencies that that the risk of infection is low, we would rather land on the side of caution in this scenario,” they said in a Facebook post.  The markets were to run March 14, 21, and 28.

As of 10:30 am this morning, Ontario had 74 confirmed positive cases.  580 cases are under investigation, 4470 cases are negative, and 5 cases are resolved.

Update: 13/3/2020- 8:30 pm: Ontario Suspends Gatherings  Municipal closures begin

Ontario has suspended gatherings of over 250 people.  The announcement came following a suggestion from Ontario’s Medical Officer of Health.  “Ontario’s attraction agencies and convention centres will be responding to this recommendation and will be taking appropriate measures for their unique properties,” said Ministers Christine Elliott, and Lisa McLeod.  The 12 following attractions are affected:

  • Ontario Science Centre
  • Royal Ontario Museum
  • Art Gallery of Ontario
  • Ottawa Convention Centre (Shaw Centre)
  • Metro Toronto Convention Centre
  • Science North
  • Niagara Parks Commission
  • St. Lawrence Parks Commission
  • McMichael Canadian Art Gallery
  • Royal Botanical Gardens
  • Ontario Place Corporation
  • Ontario Heritage Trust

Municipalities have started closures.  The Town of Milton has shut down most of its facilities effective March 14- April 5, 2020.  They’ve also cancelled March Break programming.  ” The health and safety of our residents and staff is the number one priority for everyone at the Town of Milton,” Mayor Gord Krantz said. The Milton Innovation Centre will close to the general public, while the Town Hall will remain open.

Conservation Halton is reducing its operations.  They are cancelling events including Maple Town.  Mountsberg will be closed as well.  The Milton Navy League cadets, as well as Sea Cadets have suspended all activities until further notice.

Update: 14/3/2020: Morneau Begins stabilization Measures, Halton Announces Third Case 

Finance Minister announced a series of financial measures aimed at stabilizing the Canadian economy. “To all Canadians, our government wants you to know that we have your back.  We will take every necessary step to give you confidence.” he said.  The measures will free up as much $10 billion for use by the Business Development Bank of Canada, and Export Canada to support businesses.  The Province of Ontario is adjusting its COVID-19.  As of March 13, there are no longer any Presumptive Confirmed Case, and “Under investigation” designations.  For the new definitions click here

Halton Region has announced its third case of COVID-19.  The resident is described as a woman in her fifties who recently returned from Los Angeles. She did not display symptoms on the flight home. She was tested at Joseph Brant Hospital on March 13.  She is now in self-isolation at home. Halton Region Public Health is engaged in tracing the contact.  They consider the risk to residents low.Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) has announced a new call taking procedure to better assess risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Milton Residents have meanwhile formed a Facebook group offering help to Seniors, Elderly, and those with compromised immune systems.  As of March 13, there are still 0 cases of COVID-19 in Milton.

Update: 14/3/2020 5:30 pm: Champagne Advises Canadians Abroad

Foreign Affairs Minister FP Champagne is advising Canadians abroad to return home.  He issued the official instruction from his ministerial twitter account.

 

The federal government is talking about limiting inbound flights to certain airports.  As of this morning, Ontario announced 31 new cases bringing the total to 101.  The Region of Halton has posted an update to residents from the Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hamidah Meghani:

Woodbine Entertainment is closing Woodbine-Mohawk Park for two weeks.  “We strongly believe that closing our racetracks to the public is the right thing to do for the wellbeing of our employees, customers and horsepeople,” said Jim Lawson, CEO of Woodbine Entertainment.   The recommendation follows the instructions of Ontario’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams. Live harness racing will continue without spectators.  Elements’ Casino will remain open.

Update- 15/3/2020: Ontario Parks Cancel Events,  Milton Hydro Releases Statement

Ontario Parks have cancelled all events until further notice.  The decision taken in response to a suggestion from Ontario’s medical officer of health will continue the policy of limiting public gatherings of over 250 people.

“Appropriate cleaning measures continue to be undertaken to reduce risk to staff and visitors within buildings,”  Ministers Jeff Yurek and Christine Elliott.  Yurek is the Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks.  Camping, and Day use will remain available at operating parks.  Full refunds will be offered to those who wish to cancel reservations without penalty.  Ontario’s cases rose to 142 overnight.  No new cases in the Region of Halton, or Town of Milton.

Milton Hydro has released a statement through their Twitter Account from President and CEO Frank Lsowski.  “We are committed to providing all electricity essential services,” he said.

With growing concern over COVID-19, please read attached public notice released today by #miltonhydro. pic.twitter.com/3HB3JHl0Mq

Update- 15/3/2020 5:40 pm:  Canada Makes Travel Advisory Official, Ontario Hospitals Asked to “Ramp Down Elective Surgery” 

The Government of Canada is now officially asking Canadians not to travel outside the country until further notice. The advisory warns of the possibility that new restrictions may be imposed with little warning.

Ontario’s Health Minister Christine Elliott is asking hospitals to slowly ramp down their elective surgery.  “Doing so will help preserve capacity to respond to COVID-19,” she tweeted.  Metrolinx is reducing its schedule as of Wednesday March 18 as part of its response to the virus.

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission (OLGC) will close all of its casinos.  The decision was taken as part of the response to the Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health’s recommendations.

As of 5:30 pm, Ontario reports an additional 3 cases bringing the province’s total to 140.  0 cases so far today reported in Halton or Milton.

Update: 16/3/2020: Trudeau to Announce Further Measures, Ontario  postpones budget

The Province of Ontario is introducing legislation to help protect workers who need to take time off due to the #COVID19 virus.  “The last thing we need is anyone worrying about job security as the COVID-19 situation evolves,” Premier Doug Ford said.  The legislation would provide job protection for several reasons including if the employee is under investigation, supervision or treatment for the virus, in quarantine or isolation.  Ontario has had only 32 new cases as of 10:30 this morning.  Finance Minister Rod Phillips will give an economic update instead of a budget March 25

The Region of Halton is focusing more on “those at risk.”  Region Health Authorities are looking to hear from:

  • Health care providers who are seeking or reporting information
  • Residents who have travelled to Hubei province (China), Iran or Italy
  • Residents who have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

Those with mild symptoms are encouraged to get rest, drink fluids, and eat well.  Those who are high-risk call 311.    The province of Ontario has a self-assessment tool hereHalton Healthcare is warning patients they could face increased wait times as part of its enhanced screening procedures for #COVID19 .

The Milton Chamber of Commerce has cancelled their March Business After Hours (BAH), and Milton Young Professionals’ events.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is going to address Canadians at 1pm today.  He is expected to announce additional travel measures.

Update- 16/3/2020: Border Closes, One more Halton Case

The Canadian border will be closed to all but Canadian citizens, and permanent residents.  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the drastic measure in his 1pm address.  “If you’re abroad, it’s time for you to come home, if you’ve just arrive, you must self-isolate for 14 days.  All Canadians as much as possible should stay in home,” he said.

Airlines are being instructed to prevent travellers who show any symptoms from boarding the flight.  The federal government will help Canadians with travel home, or living costs while they are waiting to travel home.  The ban does not apply to diplomats, air crews, or US Citizens at this time.  The restrictions will be in effect as of March 18, at 12pm.  Transport Minister summarized the new conditions on twitter:

Canada will also deny boarding to any foreign national coming from the US, who has resided outside of Canada or the US in the last 14 days.

Ontario Chief Medical Officer is recommending the closure of bars and restaurants accept those that can provide takeout.  Dr. David Williams made the suggestion at a 3:30 pm briefing with Deputy Medical Officer Dr. Barbara Yaffe.  He does not have the authority to make it law.

Halton has its fourth case of COVID-19; a male in his forties.  He’s a Burlington resident who was diagnosed after a flight from Miami on Air Canada (AC 1645).  The region is now tracing those on flight, while the resident remains at home in self-isolation.  Milton has 0 cases.

Update:16/3/2020- 11:30 pm: Williams Recommends closure of restaurants

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health has recommended Ontarians avoid gatherings of more 50 people.  “I am specifically requesting the closure of the following settings as soon as possible:

  • All recreational programs and libraries
  • All private schools
  • All daycares
  • All churches and other faith settings
  • All bars and restaurants, with the exception of restaurants that can shift to takeout/delivery mechanisms

The Provincial government has agreed.   “These closures would be in line with the updated guidance to avoid large gatherings of over 50 people,” Premier Doug Ford, and Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a statement.

As of 5:30 pm tonight, there were 0 additional cases in Ontario. There are currently over 1500 cases under investigation. Cineplex has announced it’s closing its theatres across the country.

Milton area restaurants such as Troy’s, and East Side Marios will begin adjusting their operations tomorrow.

Update: 17/3/2020- Ford Declares State of Emergency, First Death in Ontario

The Ontario government has declared the province to be in a state of emergency.    This effectively closes places of worship, live music venues, as well as bars and restaurants, unless they can offer takeout or delivery options.   “This is a decision that was not might made lightly,” Ford said in a news release.  The cabinet is reported to have met late last night, and again early this morning.  Restrictions will be in effect until March 31, 2020.  As of 10:30 am this morning, the province registered another 8 cases; 0 are in Halton region.  There is one unconfirmed death; a man in his seventies.  Over 1500 cases remain under investigation.   He is supported by all three opposition leaders.

 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau echoed the sentiment in his daily briefing.  He hinted that Parliament may be called back to pass new financial measures.

Update: 17/3/2020:- 8pm:  Ontario Confirms First COVID-19 Death, Milton Takes Next Steps

The Province of Ontario has confirmed its first death from COVID-19.  A 77-year old man passed away at the Royal Victoria Hospital.  “I know all Ontario families join me in extending our heartfelt condolences to his friends, family, and loved ones.  I would also like to thank all the staff who provided him with excellent care,” Ontario Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Williams said in a statement.  The man was a close contact of a positive case, and the cause was only identified after death.  Ontario has 4 new cases this afternoon, bringing the total to 183, with five resolved and the one death.  There are no new cases in Halton Region.

The Town of Milton has closed Town Hall until April 5, and established a Crisis Management Team with members of senior staff.  “The Town continues to closely monitor the situation and is prepared to take further action if necessary, to protect the health and safety of residents and staff,” Mayor Gord Krantz said.  All upcoming committee meetings have been cancelled, as has the Council meeting scheduled for March 30.  The Milton Historical Society has suspended its programming until May 1, 2020.  Individual blacksmith training, and historical research will continue.

Update: 18/3/2020: Trudeau announces More Financial Aid to combat COVID-19 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke today of more aid for the Canadian economy.  The $27 billion in direct support will bring the total to $82 billion in aid for workers, and businesses.  “No Canadian should have to worry about paying their rent or buying groceries during this difficult time.  That is why we are taking the strong action needed to stabilize the economy,” he said.   The border with the United States is also now closed to all non-essential travel.  Trade will remain unaffected.

Ontario’s cases increased by 23 to 212 overnight.  Four are listed as being Halton residents.  There are 3380 cases listed as being under investigation. Ontario Premier Doug Ford will recall the legislature Thursday to pass two pieces of COVID-19 related legislation.  Both of which are expected to get unanimous consent from all parties.

Dr. Hamidah Mdghani, the Region of Halton’s Medical Officer of Health released an update yesterday:

 

There is now an ongoing closure list for businesses in Milton.

Update- 18/3/2020- 8pm: Ontario Parks Update, Message from Mayor Krantz

Ministers Jeff Yurek and Christine Elliott have closed Ontario Parks from March 19- April 30.  “This includes car camping, backcountry camping, roofed accomodations, and all public buildings,” they said in a statement.  Visitors are being asked to leave by March 19.  Any group or individual with a reservation will be provided with a full refund.

Ontario reported two new cases bringing the day’s total to 25.  3378 cases are now under investigation.  Region of Halton numbers have increased to 10.  The latest cases:

  • 1 in Oakville due to travel
  • 2 Burlington due to travel
  • 1 in Georgetown for unknown reason

Milton Mayor Gord Krantz issued a statement on the COVID-19 response.    “We all must limit our social interactions and do our part to flatten the curve.  I hope the province’s declaration of a State of Emergency will make it clear to residents that our individual actions in the coming days are critical to the health and safety of our community,” he said.  Read the full statement here.

Update: 19/3/2020: Federal Government to help stranded Canadians via text message, Halton Confirms Ontario’s Second COVID-19 Death

The federal government is rolling out a new tool to help those stranded abroad.  They are text messaging Canadians regarding hos to get consular support: “Canada is committed to providing all assistance possible to Canadians at home and abroad affected by COVID-19,” Foreign Affairs Minister PF Champagne said.

Ontario has announced they are limiting in person proceedings, and using technology to conduct remote video, and audio conferencing.  “This approach will also help to mitigate the potential impacts of possible service disruptions,” a statement from Health Minister Christine Elliott, and Doug Downey said.  All in-person tribunal hearings are postponed, and front-line counters are being closed until further notice.  In addition:

  • The Superior Court of Justice has suspended all regular court operations until further notice, while continuing to hear urgent matters during this emergency period.
  • All sittings of the Small Claims Court in Ontario are suspended until further notice.
  • The Ontario Court of Justice has established procedures to reduce the number of people who attend court in-person for criminal and family matters. All non-urgent matters have been adjourned.
  • All Provincial Offences Act matters scheduled up to and including April 3, 2020 will be adjourned and rescheduled to a later date. Tickets, fines or other court business may be handled online.
  • The Court of Appeal has suspended all scheduled appeals until April 3, 2020. During this period, urgent appeals will be heard based on either the written materials or remotely.

Halton Public Health has recorded the province’s second death due to COVID-19.  The patient, described as a man in his fifties suffered from underlying health conditions.  He  was admitted to Milton hospital, spending time in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).  As his conditioned worsened, he was transferred to Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital.  “This is a larger community issue and I know that everyone joins me in extending their deepest condolences to his family at this time,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hamidah Meghani said.  The Region is urging residents to stay home, and practice social distancing.

19/3/2020- 8:45 pm: Historical First in Ontario, Krantz Speaks on Milton Man’s Death

Ontario had an historic first as the Ford government passed unanimously passed two pieces of legislation with only 26 Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPS) present.  “I want to thank all parties for coming together to pass this important legislation so we can deliver immediate relief to Ontario workers and families,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said.  The Employment Standards Amendment Act protects workers affected by COVID-19, and is retroactive to January 25, 2020.  The Municipal Emergency Act relaxes noise bylaws, and allows councils, and boards to conduct remote meetings.

Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) has announced a reduction in services.  They have effective immediately closed their stations.  More on the specifics here.  Milton Transit is no longer accepting fares as of March 20.  They made the announcement on Twitter.

 

 

Milton Mayor Gord Krantz has spoken out on the death of the Milton man from COVID-19.   “On behalf of Milton Council, I express our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the Milton resident who passed away from COVID-19 on March 18.”  The Region of Halton confirmed his death in a news conference earlier today.