Canada’s chief medical health officer says an equal number of Canadians who have tested positive for COVID-19 contracted the virus from travel and from the community. Doctor Theresa Tam says this represents a fundamental shift in the spread of the virus in Canada. She also notes that, while age is an important factor in how sick people get from the illness, young people aren’t invincible. Tam says if Canada is going to get a handle on community spread, social distancing and maintaining a two-metre barrier between people is essential.
All non-essential businesses in Ontario are closed as of today. Premier Ford’s order to close-up shop for at least 14 days took effect just before midnight. But a lot of businesses are open, after being designated as essential by the government. They include construction firms, utilities, health-care professionals, veterinarians, grocery stores, pharmacies and more. Yesterday Ford said he was prepared to close more businesses.
The government has negotiated unanimous consent to quickly pass emergency legislation to free up $82-billion-dollar to help Canadians weather the COVID-19 crisis. After a long day and night of negotiations, MP’s began debating the bill in the wee hours of morning, with a vote planned within a couple of hours.
Yesterday there was another major spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in Canada. There are now 2780 confirmed and presumptive cases. Quebec leads the nation with 1,013 and 4 deaths. B.C. is second with 617 cases and 13 deaths. Ontario now has 588 with 7 deaths.
Yesterday there were 85 new cases of coronavirus in Ontario and another death. The latest victim is a man in his 90’s from Durham Region. That brings the provincial infection total to 588. But it could actually be worse than that. There is a growing backlog of test results, with more than 10,000 people now waiting to find out if they have COVID-19.
The Ontario Economy:
How will COVID-19 affect our economy? Ontario’s finance minister is set to release a fiscal update later today. Rod Phillips was originally supposed to present a full budget, but opted not to in light of the pandemic. Phillips says the update will contain a one-year- outlook based on the new economic realities caused by the novel coronavirus. He’s set to deliver the update starting at 4 pm.
Advocacy groups for both landlords and tenants are putting out the call for Ottawa and provincial governments to offer some kind of relief before rent comes due on April 1st. Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and PEI have put a ban on evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. A joint statement from various tenants associations is expected this morning — asking for help from the government. Meanwhile, one landlord is forecasting an inevitable wave of evictions, since landlords will also, eventually, have to pay mortgages, taxes, and other expenses.
Hydro Rate Cuts:
Ontario is temporarily cutting hydro rates as many people work from home during the pandemic. Premier Ford says the province is moving from time-of-use pricing to off-peak rates …. 24 hours a day for the next 45 days. Small businesses and farms will also be eligible for the lowest rate possible. The savings will automatically be applied to your bill.
Today I announced real relief for the people of Ontario. We’re changing the cost of electricity to be the off-peak rate, 24/7 for 6 weeks. pic.twitter.com/hwJXScxMhK
— Doug Ford (@fordnation) March 24, 2020
The Ontario Construction Consortium is opposing Premier Doug Ford’s decision to deem a long list of construction projects as an essential service. The designation exempted the sites from closing down at midnight. The consortium says that move is contrary to advice from public health officials to maintain social distancing. They are calling on the province to suspend work on construction sites for 14 days. The Premier has vowed that he will shut down any construction companies that fail to protect their workers.
Westjet has announced about half of its staff is leaving due to the COVID-19 crisis. It says about 6,900 workers are receiving notices today confirming early retirements, early resignations and both voluntary and involuntary unpaid leaves. The airline asked staff last week to volunteer for those options to support its survival. Meanwhile Air Canada’s pilots’ union has accepted a plan to put up to 600 members on unpaid leave due to the pandemic. The Air Canada Pilots Association has also agreed to reduced pay across the board for its 44-hundred members and “simplified contract language” to allow pilots to retire earlier. The union representing flight attendants announced last week that Air Canada would temporarily lay off more than 5,100 members.
American COVID-19 News:
South of the border, Yesterday President Trump argued that thousands die every year from the flu and the United States doesn’t shut down the economy, adding he wants the social distancing guidelines he put in place to stop by Easter. He said his goal would be to have a return to normal by Easter Sunday, which is April 12. That is 19 days away. That came as New York continued to plead for respirators and medical safety equipment. And in Los Angeles, they reported the death of a child due to coronavirus yesterday, marking the first time a person under the age of 18 has succumbed to COVID-19 in the US. Deaths in the U.S. rose to 783 yesterday after a sharp rise of 197 in just one day. The total cases number of cases in America now stands at 54,905 with the infection rate now surpassing Italy.
Waterloo Regional Council is now stepping up to help residents who could be struggling financially due to COVID-19. Council has passed through a motion to waive late payment charges, interest costs and NSF bank charges for April and May on a number of services. They include: water bills, waste management invoices, child care centre accounts and more. The Region has also moved to suspend any water shut offs for accounts that are behind during the two months in question.
Contains files from The Canadian Press
Photo Credit: Global News via YouTube