A summary of developments of Thursday, October 8 and Friday, October 9 follows.
As Monday is a statutory holiday, the next COVID-19 briefing will be in your inbox by end of day Tuesday, October 13. Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Be safe and stay well.
Federal Government Relief Measures
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the following relief measures:
- A new Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy until June 2021.
- A top-up Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy of 25 per cent for organizations temporarily shut down by a mandatory public health order issued by a qualifying public health authority.
- The extension of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy until June 2021.
- An expanded Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA).
- An additional investment of $41.41 million to support air access to remote communities.
- An additional investment of $100 million through the Emergency Food Security Fund.
- An additional investment of $37 million to the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut under the Safe Restart Agreement.
Joint Statement of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford
Yesterday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford held a joint press briefing in Oakville, Ontario to announce a federal-provincial investment of $500 million to transform a Ford automotive plant into a plant dedicated to electric car manufacturing. While most of the press briefing focused on the investment at the Ford plant, the Prime Minister and Premier Ford did respond to some COVID related questions. The Prime Minister encouraged everyone to download the COVID-Alert app, especially as we near Thanksgiving weekend. When asked about access to the Atlantic Bubble, the Prime Minister indicated that it would be up to the Atlantic Provinces to determine whether or when their policies would change. The Prime Minister also said that it was unacceptable for Canadians to be waiting hours for testing, or to be paying for testing. Testing for a fee undercuts universal health care in Canada and the Health Minister is looking into this issue.
Regarding contact tracing, the Prime Minister indicated that contact tracing is a crucial component to pandemic management and since the spring, the federal government has provided assistance to the provinces. Premier Ford emphasized the province's $1 billion plan to improve contact tracing and testing. He said that if anyone would like to volunteer as a contact tracer, applications were online.
Finally, both the Prime Minister and the Premier emphasized that the initiative to support electric car manufacturing is a plan for the future to ensure that Canadians have jobs once the pandemic is over.
Federal Government Briefings
Yesterday, Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller held a news conference to provide an update on COVID-19 and its effect on Canada's Indigenous peoples. Indigenous Services Medical Expert Dr. Tom Wong and the Deputy Minister of Indigenous Services, Valérie Gideon, joined the Minister.
Minister Miller opened the conference with a statement. He discussed Joyce Echaquan's death, his emotional meeting with her family and systemic racism against Indigenous Canadians in the health system.
He stressed the need for culturally sensitive healthcare reform and that Ottawa cannot dictate such reform. Indigenous peoples must undertake that reform. On that basis, he mentioned that the federal government is developing distinctions-based health legislation to address the issue of systemic racism in healthcare.
When pressed on whether the federal government would make cultural competency training a condition to healthcare money transfers to the provinces, Minister Miller said he preferred not to get into division of power issues.
Active cases in Indigenous communities have gone up from 19 to 98. There are currently 123 active cases in Indigenous communities with a majority of those cases in Alberta, Manitoba and British Columbia.
Minister Miller stated that the federal government would take steps to make vaccines available to indigenous communities. He confirmed that a number of vaccines would be allocated specifically for Indigenous communities. He also confirmed that there would be further allocations for Indigenous COVID testing. Deputy Minister Gideon stated that the vaccine itself would be distributed through provincial and territorial health systems. In the meantime, the federal government will run flu immunization campaigns to improve vaccination rates in Indigenous communities. She assured that the information would also be provided in the local Indigenous language.
Minister Miller assured that more resources would be mobilized for Indigenous communities to manage the second COVID wave.
Today, Prime Minister Trudeau provided an update on the federal government's response to COVID-19. Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Health Patty Hajdu, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie Claude Bibeau, Dr. Tam and Dr. Njoo, Chief and Deputy Chief Public Health Officers of Canada, joined the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister announced that the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut would receive supplemental funds of over $37 million under the Safe Restart Agreement ("Agreement"). He said, when the provincial and territorial governments finalized the Agreement in July, they recognized that smaller jurisdictions faced distinct challenges and circumstances.
The supplemental funds are for health care services and support to remote populations. These services and supports can include isolation centres, infection prevention and control training for staff, support to community shelters, as well as covering increased operational costs. In addition, the Prime Minister announced that territories would receive up to $41.41 million in support for air carriers to ensure that food, equipment and medicine reach people living in remote communities in a reliable and timely manner.
Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc provided a breakdown of the supplemental funding:
- $12.5 million for Nunavut and up to $17.1 million for air carriers in the territory
- $12.2 million for the Northwest Territories and up to $17.1 million for air carriers in the territory
- $12.4 million for Yukon and up to $7 million for air carriers in the territory
Deputy Premier and Minster of Finance Chrystia Freeland provided details on the new, targeted support for businesses:
- The new Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy, which will provide simple and easy-to-access rent and mortgage support directly to tenants until June 2021. The new rent subsidy will support businesses, charities, and non-profits that have suffered a revenue drop caused by COVID-19, by subsidizing a percentage of their expenses, on a sliding scale, up to a maximum of 65 per cent of eligible expenses until December 19, 2020. Organizations would be able to make claims retroactively for the period that began September 27 and ends October 24, 2020.
- A top-up Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy of 25 per cent for organizations temporarily shut down by a mandatory public health order issued by a qualifying public health authority, in addition to the 65 per cent subsidy. This follows a commitment in the Speech from the Throne to provide direct financial support to businesses temporarily shut down because of a local public health decision.
- The extension of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy until June 2021.The subsidy would remain at the current subsidy rate of up to a maximum of 65 per cent of eligible wages until December 19, 2020. This measure is part of the government's commitment to create over 1 million jobs and restore employment to the level it was before the pandemic.
- An expanded Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA), which would enable businesses, and not-for-profits eligible for CEBA loans—and that continue to be seriously impacted by the pandemic—to access an interest-free loan of up to $20,000, in addition to the original CEBA loan of $40,000. Half of this additional financing would be forgivable if repaid by December 31, 2022. An attestation of the impact of COVID-19 on the business will be required to access the additional financing.
Deputy Premier Freeland said the application deadline for CEBA is being extended to December 31, 2020. She promised further details on launch date and application process of the expanded CEBA soon.
In response to questions from journalists, Deputy Premier Freeland said the projected expenditure for the new rent support program, including the 25 per cent top up, was estimated at $2.2 billion from now until December 31, 2020. The projected expenditure for the expanded CEBA program was estimated at $11 billion. An additional $6 billion was added to the CEWS program expenditure because the maximum base subsidy rate remains at 65% rather than gradually declining to 20% in period 9, which ends on December 19, 2020.
Minister Hajdu announced an investment of more than $10.2M in COVID-19 mental health and substance use research.
Minister Bibeau said the additional funding of $100 million through the Emergency Food Security Fund "builds on what we have already achieved through our first round of federal emergency funding, which is helping two million food insecure Canadians through 1,800 local-level projects." The funds will be supplied to national and regional organizations, who will then support food banks and local food organizations across Canada to improve access to food and increase food supply for vulnerable Canadians across the country, who are experiencing food insecurity because of global COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Tam and Dr. Njoo announced that 175,559 new cases of COVID-19 had been reported across Canada, including 9,557 deaths.
Dr. Tam and Dr. reported that there were 175,559 cases of COVID-19 in Canada, including 9,557 deaths. Laboratories across Canada continue to test at a high rate, with an average of over 71,000 people tested daily last week and 2.5% of these testing positive.
They then highlighted that the national case count had doubled since the September 22, 2020 update on national epidemiology and modelling data. Yesterday, 2,400 new COVID-19 cases were reported across Canada; the highest total number of new cases since the start of the pandemic. "Actions are needed now to reverse trend," they both said. The provinces of Alberta, Ontario and Quebec are driving the resurgence of the virus.
According to the latest national epidemiology and modelling data, short-term forecasts indicate an accelerated growth. Cumulative cases predicted to October 17 are in the range of 188,150 to 197,830 and cumulative deaths in the range of 9,690 to 9,800.
The long-range forecast demonstrates the need for a stronger response. According to Dr. Tam and Dr. Njoo, we must decrease our current rate of contacts by 25 percent to 35 percent to bring the epidemic come under control in most locations. Failing that, the epidemic will resurge.
Prime Minister Trudeau emphasized that we have reached a tipping point regarding COVID-19. "What we do now will shape what we see in two weeks," he said. He urged everyone to do everything to reverse the trend so that we can be with our loved ones at Christmas.
Statement of Ontario Premier Doug Ford
Ontario Premier Doug Ford held a news conference to announce the government was tightening restrictions in Ottawa, Peel, and Toronto due to the dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases in those regions. Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott, Minister of Finance Rod Phillips, Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health, and Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, Director of the Institute for Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation and the Dalla Lana Chair of Public Health Policy at the University of Toronto joined the Premier.
Beginning, Saturday, October 10th at 12:01 am, the restrictions apply to all non-essential businesses where the following three factors are present: 1) indoors, 2) difficult to wear a mask, 3) difficult to social distance. This means that establishments will be closed where these three factors are present. Specific locations that will be closing include:
- Performing arts centres and venues
- Spectator areas in racing venues
- Interactive exhibits or exhibits with high risk of personal contact in museums, galleries, zoos, science centres, landmarks
- Prohibiting personal care services where face coverings must be removed for the service
- Reducing the capacity limits for tour and guide services to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors
- Real Estate open houses to 10 people indoors, where physical distancing can be maintained
- In-person teaching and instruction to 10 people indoors and 25 people out-doors, with exemptions for schools, child care centres, universities, colleges of applied arts and technology, private career colleges, the Ontario Police College, etc.
- Meeting and event spaces to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors
- Limiting team sports to training sessions (no indoor games or scrimmages)
Indoor sports were specified to include indoor pick up games, such as hockey, as being suspended. However, outdoor sports have yet to be assessed.
Rather than focussing on specific industries, the government adopted a location-based approach to implement the restrictions. Where the three factors are present, then those operations will fall under the restrictions. The restrictions will be in force for a minimum of 28 days and reviewed on an ongoing basis.
Echoing the views of her provincial counterpart in Quebec, Health Minister Elliott said, "The rising number of COVID-19 cases and outbreaks with increasing rates of hospitalization and ICU admissions is very concerning and putting our health system capacity at risk." She added, "We need to halt this dangerous trend by tightening public health measures in Ottawa, Peel and Toronto in order to keep our schools open, protect our seniors and our loved ones in long-term care homes, and avoid the need for harsher measures in the future. This was not an easy decision but a necessary one to potentially preventing something much worse."
During the question period, journalists asked why Ottawa and Peel were being penalized for Toronto's crowded bars, and why these measures are being implemented against Ottawa's wishes. Dr. Williams responded that proximity between Peel and Toronto makes it necessary to close both health regions, to prevent traveling from one region to another to engage in restricted activities. He noted that while the City of Ottawa was not enthused by the measures, it was not against them, recognizing the importance and necessity of early intervention to relieve pressure on health services.
Premier Ford and his officials reiterated how important it is for each person to respect health policies by washing their hands, wearing a mask, and only going out when necessary. This includes cutting down multiple trips to the grocery store per week, or do curbside pick up. The key to tackling the second wave is adhering to policy measures from the individual level all the way to the institutional level.
Statement of Quebec Premier François Legault
Yesterday, Quebec Premier François Legault provided a quick update on the government's response to COVID-19.
Premier Legault shared the most recent daily numbers: 1078 new cases, 16 hospitalizations and 9 deaths. He reaffirmed his commitment to the new restrictions that introduced in the province's red alert zones, including closing bars and restaurants, as well as requiring high school students to wear masks.
Premier Legault said Québec the government's priority it to improve and expand tracing. He called upon all Quebeckers to download the COVID-Alert app and assured the population that there was no risk to their privacy or personal information, as claimed by the opposition parties Québec Solidaire et le Parti Québécois.
Premier Legault urged Quebeckers to stay home and celebrate Thanksgiving with household members only this year.
This morning, Premier Legault also reported 1102 new COVID-19 cases for today, 8 new hospitalizations and 21 deaths. He urged Quebeckers to stay home and celebrate Thanksgiving within their "family bubbles.
Elsewhere in Canada
Yesterday, Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced 364 new cases of COVID-19 and 2 deaths. In response to rising case numbers in Edmonton, Dr. Hinshaw announced new voluntary public health measures, including a new suggested maximum limit of 15 people for gatherings and a recommendation that masks should be worn in all indoor work settings.
Alberta's government is spending $53 million from the industry-supported Technology Innovation and Emission Reduction fund to create jobs through flood mitigation projects as part of Alberta's Recovery Plan. Projects will include flood mitigation infrastructure, watershed restoration projects and a new program to help municipalities and Indigenous communities adapt to future floods.
New construction at Red Crow Community College will create 270 jobs and help strengthen the area's economy as part of Alberta's Recovery Plan. The project will see construction of a new campus at Kainai in southern Alberta, replacing one destroyed by fire in 2015.
Yesterday, Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia's Provincial Health Officer, and Stephen Brown, deputy Minister of Health, announced 110 new cases of COVID-19 and one death. 76 individuals are hospitalized, 17 of whom are in intensive care. There are 1,394 active cases of COVID-19 in the province and 3,139 people are under active public health monitoring because of known exposures.
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