Yesterday Premier Ford announced schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year but at-home learning will continue. Ford said the safety of children is his top priority. Education Minister Stephen Lecce said parents will know the safety plan to reopen in September before the end of June. The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association said it will work with the province to reopen schools in the fall but the experience will likely be different than in the past.
When it comes to our kids, safety must come first.
— Stephen Lecce (@Sflecce) May 19, 2020
Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our children. Today, Premier @FordNation and Minister @Sflecce announced schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year. This is the right decision and will help us in our fight against the spread of #COVID19.
— John Tory (@JohnTory) May 19, 2020
Emergency Order Extended:
Ontario’s emergency orders have been extended until May 29th. That includes the closure of bars and restaurants except for take-out and delivery, and limiting gatherings to five people. However, an exception is now being made for drive-in religious gatherings. Vehicles must be kept at least two metres apart and only contain members of the same household, and no one may leave their vehicle.
Here is Premier Ford’s news conference from yesterday:
Border Closure Extended:
Prime Minister Trudeau says Canada is contemplating how it will safely end restrictions on international travel. Trudeau confirmed yesterday that the U.S. has agreed to a 30-day extension on the mutual ban on non-essential border crossings. Trudeau says the government is already considering what will happen after that ban expires on June 21st, saying the extension gives Canada another month to get the “right answers to those questions.”
Here is Prime Minister Trudeau’s news conference from yesterday:
Yesterday there was a spike in new COVID-19 cases in Ontario, even though there was a drop in the amount of tests completed over the long weekend. Health officials announced 427 new cases and 15 deaths, raising the total to 23,384 cases and 1,919 deaths.
47% of Canadians Think Restrictions Should Be Lifted:
With a number of provinces starting to ease COVID–19 restrictions, a new poll suggests that most Canadians say lifting preventative measures province-wide is not a good way to reopen the economy. The latest COVID-19 poll by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies suggests only 35 per cent of people think restrictions should be loosened for entire provinces. In contrast, 47 per cent think those decisions should apply to specific regions within each province, while 18 per cent say reopening measures should apply to all of Canada at once.
Investigating Long Term Care:
The Ontario government says it’s launching an independent commission to look into the province’s long-term care system. Merrilee Fullerton, the minister of long-term are, says the commission can be up and running by September and says it will be an independent, non-partisan commission that will conduct a thorough and expedited review. Nearly 1,400 long-term care residents have died amid COVID-19 outbreaks in the facilities, as well as five staff members.
#COVID19 has highlighted many challenges in #LTC, and since day one, our gov has taken aggressive action to protect our most vulnerable. Today we announced an independent commission into the impact of the virus in LTC. This is the responsible next step to take for our province. pic.twitter.com/bcSJrz8vkt
— Merrilee Fullerton, MPP (@DrFullertonMPP) May 19, 2020
Federal Loan Program:
The federal government is expected to unveil today more details of its promised loan program for large corporations and commercial rent relief for small- and mid-sized businesses. The latter program provides interest-free loans of 40-thousand dollars for eligible small businesses to cover costs like rent and utilities, with the possibility of forgiving one-quarter of the amount if paid off by the end of 2022. The governing Liberals are working to persuade businesses to rehire workers now that Canada’s economy is starting to emerge from the COVID-19 lockdown.
To give more businesses access to the support they need so they can help protect workers and the jobs they rely on, the Government of Canada is expanding the eligibility criteria for the Canada Emergency Business Account. Learn more: https://t.co/rwGavSQuOm #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/knHa14NMdd
— CanadianPM (@CanadianPM) May 19, 2020
Federal Government Audit:
Just how prepared Ottawa was for the pandemic will be the focus of a new COVID-19 audit. Karen Hogan, the nominee to be Canada’s next auditor general, says she will also be looking at key parts of the federal response. Hogan told MP’s yesterday the potential for fraud in some emergency aid programs may expand the scope of audit-work that the office is trying to manage, with limited budget resources and employees working from home.
Here is Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer’s news conference from yesterday:
Post Secondary Tuition Relief::
As post-secondary students across Canada face a fall semester taught largely online, many are calling for tuition relief amid the financial squeeze caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, schools say the economic crisis has left then unable to offer discounts, citing the significant costs of shifting to remote operations. Many students and institutions alike say the pandemic has highlighted the need for increased government funding for post-secondary education, to ensure schools aren’t so reliant on tuition.
Relaunching Air Travel:
The International Air Transport Association has proposed a series of measures aimed at relaunching the global air travel industry. They include the mandatory use of facemasks, a ban on lining up for onboard washrooms and an end to physical distancing. The organization says passenger face coverings remove the need for social distancing on board, which it defines as leaving middle seats open. However, Transport Canada has listed social distancing among the “key points” in preventing the spread of the virus.
Waterloo Region Numbers:
It was very good news from Waterloo Region Public Health yesterday. They reported no new deaths and only four new cases of COVID-19. The regional total is now 1,037 with 673 resolved. Over the Victoria Day weekend, police and bylaw made over 200 sites visits to address complaints from the public. No new fines were issued. Yesterday the Region’s acting Medical Officer of Health formally recommended people wear non-medical masks in places where physical distancing is a challenge.
Only one new COVID-19 case was reported yesterday by Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health. There are now 349 in total. Guelph has 131 of the positive cases, Wellington has 60 and Dufferin County has 150 cases.
Kitchener Blues Festival Closed:
The 2020 Kitchener Blues Festival has been cancelled. This is yet another big hit to the local economy. Organizers say they made the decision after consulting with local and provincial experts, although they did not say which ones. This would have been the 20-year anniversary of the festival.
Grand River Transit Changes:
With pandemic restrictions easing, Grand River Transit in Waterloo Region has announced some changes. Temporary barriers are being installed on buses. That’s to protect drivers once they start collecting fares again in June. They would also like all customers to wear a mask or face covering. Some customer service locations are now reopen as well.
For the safety of operators and customers, we are installing temporary barriers on all conventional buses in preparation for fare collection and front door boarding starting June 1.
You’ll start seeing barriers on buses this week as we roll them out across our fleet. pic.twitter.com/5r79KhjtIN
— Grand River Transit (@GRT_ROW) May 19, 2020
Canada Post Infection:
A security guard at the Canada Post Distribution Centre in Kitchener has tested positive for COVID-19. The guard last worked at the Trillium Drive depot on Friday May 8, and at the time, they weren’t showing any symptoms. They are now self-isolating and the facility underwent a deep clean last night.
Pandemic Horse Racing:
New York’s Belmont Stakes is usually the third leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown. This year it will be the first. The New York Racing Association announced the 152nd Belmont Stakes will take place Saturday, June 20 as the opening leg of the Triple Crown. Another difference horse racing fans will notice — no spectators at the event in accordance with social distancing recommendations. Fans will be able to place bets online, however. The race is also usually a mile and a half, but this year it will be shorter at a mile and an eighth. The Belmont Stakes will air at 3 p.m. ET on NBC Sports. The Kentucky Derby was rescheduled from May 2 to Sept. 5. The Preakness Stakes was rescheduled from May 16 to Oct. 3.
Trump Was Advised to Wear a Mask:
President Trump and officials accompanying him Thursday to a Ford Motor Company factory in Michigan that manufactures ventilators were recommended to wear masks at the facility, the auto-maker said yesterday. “Our policy is that everyone wears PPE [personal protective equipment] to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Ford said in a statement to Fox News. “We shared all of Ford’s safety protocols, including our manufacturing playbook, employee pamphlet and self-assessment survey with the White House ahead of time and in preparation for this trip.” It’s not clear if Trump will comply, as he has refused to wear a mask publicly, like when he visits the Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti.
Texas Preparing to Reopen:
Many of Texas’ bars, bowling alleys and some other attractions can begin reopening Friday after shutting their doors in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Monday outlining Phase II of the state’s plan to return to business following weeks of shutdowns. But a handful of counties that the governor called COVID-19 hot spots cannot move into Phase II until May 29, Abbot said. Those include El Paso, Randall, Potter, Moore and Deaf Smith.
Pier 1 Imports:
Pier 1 Imports, which previously said it would close half of its fleet of stores, now plans to close all of its locations. The retailer announced in a news release yesterday that it was seeking bankruptcy court approval to begin an “orderly wind-down” when stores are able to reopen “following the government-mandated closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.” In January, Pier 1 said it planned to close up to 450 stores, or nearly half of its locations. It then filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February. Robert Riesbeck, Pier 1’s CEO and chief financial officer, said the company had been working to find a buyer to continue operating before the coronavirus. “Unfortunately, the challenging retail environment has been significantly compounded by the profound impact of COVID-19, hindering our ability to secure such a buyer and requiring us to wind down,” Riesbeck said.
Contains files from The Canadian Press
Photo Credit: CPAC via YouTube screenshot