COVID-19 Updates: March 20-27

The RCMP is increasing its visibility along the Canada-US border

By: Laura Steiner

This space will be for Covid-19 updates for the week of March 20-27.  See this link for the week of March 12-19


Update: 20/3/2020- 12:30 pm: Canada-US Border to close at midnight, A Milton Man remembered

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the Canada-US Border will close to all non-essential traffic at midnight tonight.  Additionally, all migrants attempting to illegally cross the border will be returned to the United States.  Trudeau is also calling for Canadian industry to help make necessary supplies such as ventilators, and hospital gowns in order to build the stockpile. “We are mobilizing all of Canada to fight the spread of this virus,” Trudeau said.

Ontario’s second death due to COVID-19 has been identified as Sean Cunnington, a 51-year old father of three who worked as a salesman.  “He was the most caring, most loving, genuine person.  He was my everything,” Teri Cunnington told CTV News.  Both of their workplaces and co-workers have been in touch with Halton Region’s Public Health.  Teri is under quarantine until March 25, 2020 and unable to go to the funeral home to make arrangements.  She urges people to stay home.

Ontario experienced an increase of 50 cases overnight bringing the provincial total to 308.  8 of the new cases have transmission listed as “close contact.”

Update: 20/3/2020- 8:30 pm: Ontario Unveils Education, OHIP changes, Air Canada to evacuate Canadians from Casablanca

Air Canada is sending an evacuation flight to Casablanca, Morocco to bring Canadian travellers home. “We are doing everything possible to assist Canadians abroad to return home, and we appreciate the support of Air Canada, which its technical and operational expertise to help us,” Foreign Affairs Minister FP Champagne said.  The plane will arrive in Montreal.

Ontario has unveiled changes to its provincial health insurance plan.  The adjustments include waiving the three-month waiting period for coverage and paying for coverage of costs associated with COVID-19.  “We’re working to guarantee that anyone who needs screening or care for COVID-19 will get it.”  Health Minister Christine Elliott said.  Ontarians with expiring health cards will continue to be able to access services uninterrupted.

Premier Doug Ford, and Education Minister Stephen Lecce also unveiled changes to Ontario’s education curriculum.  They will offer an online Learn-at-home program featuring courses designed to help elementary-age students learn while being entertained.  The Secondary school program is focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).  “Our plan will provide interactive teacher-led math supports to keep students learning.”  Lecce said.”  Ontario reported another 10 cases as of 5:30 pm bringing the total to 318.

The town of Milton’s latest steps to combat COVID-19 include the relaxing of parking restrictions, and adding signs to parks, and public squares reminding residents of social distancing.  “On behalf of the Town of Milton, I strongly encourage residents and their families to follow Halton Region’s Medical Officer of Health’s advice to seriously practice social distancing,” Mayor Gord Krantz said.  Milton Transit isn’t collecting fares until further notice.

Halton Healthcare has issued an update to its visitors’ policy:

Update: 21/3/2020: 1:30 pm- Canada-US Border Closes for 1 month, Ontario establishes Ontario Together Website

The Canada-US border is now closed to non-essential traffic.  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement following negotiations with the Trump administration.  “Together we will continue to work collaboratively and make the necessary sacrifices to fight this pandemic,” Trudeau said.  The closure took effect at 12:01 am this morning, and is in effect until April 21 at 12pm.

Ontario has put a call out for business to join the fight against COVID-19.  Premier Doug Ford  They’ve launched Ontario Together as an initiative to help Ontario manufacturers redeploy capacity to making medical supplies including ventilators, and swabs.  “Extraordinary times call for extraordinary efforts, and we are already seeing people stepping up and offering to help out as we deal with this unprecedented situation,” Ford said.  Ontario reported 59 more cases, bringing the provincial total to 377.  Over 23 thousand tests have been conducted to-date.  The Region of Halton has 11 confirmed cases including one death of a resident from Milton.

Update- 22/3/2020: 12:30 pm: Parliament to return, Ontario grants hospitals new powers:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau officially confirmed that parliament will be sitting Tuesday March 24, 2020 to pass the $82 billion aid package.  The Senate will be recalled Wednesday.  Trudeau has been repeatedly been asked about enacting the Emergencies Act, and has said we’re not there yet, but everything is on the table.  Global News Political Correspondent David Akin looks at what the legislation is, and what enacting it could do.

Now look at federal Emergencies Act , Sec 8, which spells out powers Ottawa has if it declares a national emergency: https://t.co/5wQum2JYLD This is a ‘closed’ list. There is no “blank cheque” clause allowing Ottawa to do *anything* deemed necessary to respond. 3/

Ontario has granted additional powers to hospitals over staffing through a temporary order.  The instruction comes under the State of Emergency which was declared March 17, 2020.  It grants hospitals the following powers:

  • Redeploying staff within different locations in (or between) facilities of the hospital;
  • Redeploying staff to work in COVID-19 assessment centres;
  • Changing the assignment of work, including assigning non-bargaining unit employees or contractors to perform bargaining unit work;
  • Changing the scheduling of work or shift assignments;
  • Deferring or cancelling vacations, absences or other leaves, regardless of whether such vacations, absences or leaves are established by statute, regulation, agreement or otherwise;
  • Employing extra part-time or temporary staff or contractors, including for the purpose of performing bargaining unit work;
  • Using volunteers to perform work, including to perform bargaining work; and
  • Providing appropriate training or education as needed to staff and volunteers to achieve the purposes of a redeployment plan.

“While normal protocols are important in routine times, these extraordinary steps will ensure our health sector workers are there, where and when they are needed,” Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said.  The order will last for 14 days.  Ontario confirmed 47 additional cases overnight.

Airlines continue efforts to repatriate stranded Canadians.  The first Air Canada flight arrived last night from Casablanca, Morocco.  WestJet has offered 30 flights that will be flying from Monday- Wednesday.

Update: 23/3/2020- 12:30 p.m.: Canada Announces Research funding for COVID-19, Ontario closes Drive Test Centres

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced $275 million in funding for COVID-19 related research including the development of a vaccine.  “We are all in this together, and need to be doing our part to prevent he spread of the virus,” Trudeau said.  The funding includes $192 million for new projects.

Ontario has closed its Drive Test centres.  It was a mutual decision between the service provider and the government.  They will waive the cancelation penalty.  Drivers will not lose their current licenses.  Ontario recorded another 78 cases of COVID-19 include two Halton residents.  One identified as a Milton resident in his 40’s.  The other a man in his 50’s.  Both cases are believed to be travel-related.

Update- 23/3/2020: 4 pm.: Ontario closing down business, Introduces Enhanced COVID-19 self-assessment:

Ontario has announced it will close all non-essential businesses as of 11:59 p.m. March 24, 2020.  “This was a tough decision, but the right decision as this is no time for half-measures,” Premier Doug Ford said.  The closure will last two weeks, with the possibility of an extension.

The province also unveiled an enhanced self-assessment tool.  “This easy to use self-assessment tool was developed with guidance from Dr. Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.” The tool can be found here

The City of Toronto has declared a state of emergency.  “I know this is an incredibly tough time for residents across our city.  I want them to know that we are doing everything we can at the City to fight this virus while continuing to deliver our essential and critical services,” Mayor John Tory said.  Burlington is the only municipality in Halton to declare a State of Emergency.

Update: 24/3/2020: Updates were posted this morning in the following Twitter thread

 

Update: 25/3/2020: Emergency Funding measures expected to pass, Ontario Business Information Line Opens

The Emergency funding legislation is expected to pass by the end of today.  It was passed by the House of Commons early this morning after an afternoon, and evening of negotiations.  At issue was a clause that would grant Finance Minister Bill Morneau the right to cut, increase, or introduce new taxes until the end of 2020.  The clause has been eliminated, and the bill is being discussed by the Senate.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu is enacting the Quarantine Act.  This means that effective midnight all travelers returning to Canada will be subject to quarantine themselves for a period of 14 days.

Ontario has opened its hotline for businesses seeking information on the latest Emergency Order.  Provincial Finance Minister Rod Phillips will be giving an economic update later today.  Ontario reported 100 new cases overnight.  The Region of Halton has four new cases all in Oakville.

Update: 25/3/2020- 8:30 pm: Phillips Presents Economic Update, Milton Businesses Reach Out To Each Other

Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips has presented his economic update, which included a $17 billion package of tax relief, and doubles funding for the healthcare system.  “We’re taking responsible steps to lessen the burden for businesses and people,” Phillips said.  The package also increases the deficit to $20.5 billion from the current $9 billion.  More information on the package is here  The federal government’s aid package was given royal assent this afternoon.  As of 5:30 pm this afternoon the Province reported 0 additional cases.

Halton Region’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hamidah Mdghani addressed Regional Council at their meeting March 25th.

Businesses in the Town of Milton have started to help each other and the community.  Even Milton Public Library has gotten into it, using its 3D printer to make Face Shields for healthcare workers.

The Federal government will begin enforcing the 14-day quarantine rule on travelers at midnight tonight.

Update: March 26- 1 p.m.: Canada names new Ambassador to US, Quarantine Act Enforcement begins

Canada has named a new Ambassador to the United States.  Ms. Kirsten Hillman will take over the post on a permanent basis.  “I saw Ms. Hillman’s ability to stand up for Canadians and fight for their interests.  She combines exceptional knowledge and skills, and is a gifted diplomat,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.  Hillman has served as Acting Ambassador since August, 2019.

The federal government has also started to enforce the Quarantine Act.  Air passengers arriving at airports will be tested in groups.  According to the CBC asymptomatic travellers will be allowed to leave the airport under their own power.  Travellers who show symptoms will be taken home my medical transport.  If they live too far away they’ll be taken to a federal quarantine site.  Those who violate the act could be subject to fines of up to $1 million, or jail time.

Milton Transit has announced route suspensions due to COVID-19:

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These changes are effective today.  Ontario has reported another 170 new cases of COVID-19.  One is listed as a female in her 20’s from Halton who contracted it through travel.

Update: 27/3/2020: More aid for Business, Bank of Canada Cuts lending rate

There will be more help for small business.  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a 75% subsidy for small and medium sized businesses.  The banks will offer $40,000 interest free, government guaranteed loans; $10,000 of which will be forgiven.   HST payments will be deferred until June.  “You’ve had to slow down your operations, in some cases you’ve even had to close up shop for the foreseeable future and because money isn’t coming in, you cant afford to keep your employees on the payroll,” Trudeau said in his morning address.

The Bank of Canada has lowered its overnight rate by 50 basis points to .25%.  Governor Stephen Poloz says it’s to provide support to the economy during the COVID-19 Pandemic.  “Our monetary policy is playing an important supporting role.  Low interest rates help to cushion the shock by easing the cost of borrowing,” Poloz said.

Ontario has reported 135 new cases overnight, bringing the overall total to 993 as of 10:30 am this morning.  The Town of Milton has closed all parks, playgrounds, dog parks, skate parks, and sports courts until further notice.

Update: 27/3/2020- 8:30 pm- Military on a War Footing, Opposition React to Wage Subsidy, Conservatives Suspend Leadership Race

Canada’s Military is now said to be on a war footing.  Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance posted a five-page letter to Twitter outlining the force’s readiness.  “We will identify and make ready for action COVID-19 response forces in Canada under Op Laser and domestic response forces under Op Lentus,” he said.  He urged those set to report for duty to maintain precautions such as handwashing, and Social Distancing.

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Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh have both applauded Trudeau’s increase in the wage subsidy.  “Today they took my advice,” Scheer tweeted.  Singh had sent a letter to Trudeau asking for the increase.

The Conservative Party has suspended its leadership race in response to  COVID-19.  They made the announcement in a statement posted on their website.  “With all non-essential businesses now closed in Ontario and Quebec including our HQ LEOC (Leadership Election Organizing Committee) now finds it no longer possible to meet deadlines necessary to process membership and donations, or print, process, and count ballots in time for a June 27, announcement,” they said.  Leadership candidates included Peter MacKay, Erin O’Toole, Leslyn Lewis, and Derek Sloan.

Milton Optimists have organized an Emergency food drive this weekend.  It’ll take place Saturday, and Sunday from 10am- 2pm in the parking lot at La Rose plaza.  More information is available through our Facebook Page

The Milton District Hospital Foundation (MDHF) has established an emergency response fund.  Donations will be matched for a limited time.  They will accept donations of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).