Today’s coronavirus news: Resurgence of COVID-19 in Toronto has begun, de Villa says; Ontario reporting 133 new cases, no additional deaths

KEY FACTS

  • 2:30 p.m.: Resurgence of COVID-19 in Toronto has begun: de Villa

  • 6:15 a.m.: India registers 78,357 new coronavirus cases

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Wednesday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

2:30 p.m.: The dreaded resurgence of COVID-19 has already begun, said Toronto medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa, at today’s update from city hall.

There were another 48 infections overnight, bringing the number of new infections in Toronto this week to 123.

De Villa is urging people who have let their guard down to return to stricter practices — they have seen infections spread between people meeting indoors without masks. Stick to your bubbles of 10 people, she is pleading.

2:05 p.m.: Health officials in New Brunswick say a temporary foreign worker in the Moncton area has tested positive for COVID-19.

The new case is the only infection reported in the province in the last 24 hours.

Authorities said in a news release today the infected person is between the ages of 20 and 29 and has been isolating.

There have been 192 positive cases of COVID-19 and two deaths linked to the novel coronavirus in New Brunswick since the pandemic began.

Of those cases, 186 have recovered and four remain active.

The province has conducted a total of 62,222 COVID-19 tests.

1:58 p.m.: The Alberta government says $262 million in federal money meant to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in schools will be dispersed equitably and quickly.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says $250 million will be doled out to school boards on a per-student basis.

That represents about $350 per child for the upcoming school year.

These funds can only be used to cover COVID-19 related costs, such as cleaning, personal protective equipment and staffing.

The remaining $12 million is to support school authorities that are seeing a surge in enrolment due to increased demand for their online learning programs.

LaGrange says she’ll ensure the money immediately flows to school boards as soon as it’s received from Ottawa.

The funds will be transferred in two phases — once in September and again later in the school year.

1:33 p.m.: Canada is still considering a contribution to the international vaccine coalition known as COVAX, which aims to equitably distribute a COVID-19 vaccine to poorer countries that can’t afford one.

The decision stands in contrast to Tuesday’s decision by the Trump administration in the United States to opt out of the alliance of more than 150 countries because the program is linked to the World Health Organization.

President Donald Trump ended U.S. funding to the WHO in July because he says it is being unduly influenced by China and needs to be reformed.

A spokesman for Karina Gould, Canada’s International Development Minister, says the Trudeau government is working on the details of a spending commitment to what’s called the “COVAX Facility,” which is designed to ensure developing countries have fair access to a COVID-19 cure.

COVAX also allows investing countries to be given early access for up to 20 per cent of their populations.

The initiative is aimed at circumventing so-called vaccine nationalism — the scramble by individual countries to secure vaccines for their own populations, often by pre-buying doses directly from pharmaceutical companies.

1 p.m.: Ontario’s ombudsman must review the government’s back-to-school plan to ensure it’s living up to vital safety standards, the province’s Official Opposition said in a formal request for the watchdog to investigate the reopening strategy.

The New Democrats’ education critic, Marit Stiles, wrote in the letter released Wednesday that she wants the ombudsman to determine if measures are in place to meet standards recommended by experts.

Stiles notes in the letter to Paul Dube that the ombudsman’s purview includes school boards, and argues an urgent investigation is required to address the “confusion or anxiety” felt by many.

12:45 p.m.: A 99-year-old veteran of the Second World War has walked 100 kilometres to raise funds to fight COVID-19.

George Markow did laps around his seniors’ residence in Newmarket, Ont., over several months and completed the milestone this morning.

He raised nearly $47,000 for Sunnybrook Research Institute and Southlake Regional Health Centre Foundation’s COVID-19 Action Fund.

Although Markow completed his mileage goal, he plans to keep walking because he enjoys the activity.

He also hopes to keep raising money to help fund research for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Zach Hyman surprised Markow with a jersey after the veteran crossed the finish line.

12:15 p.m. (updated): Ontario has recorded its second-highest daily tally of new COVID-19 cases since the end of July.

The Ministry of Health reported 133 new infections Wednesday, an increase from 112 the previous day, with 105 in residents of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area.

Health authorities urged Ontarians to keep up with their pandemic precautions as the case numbers continue to stay above 100 daily after dropping below that level in mid-August.

“We’ve seen backyard barbecue celebrations turn into cases, some of them serious,” warned Dr. Lawrence Loh, medical officer of health for Peel Region.

Toronto Public Health was investigating a possible case at the Bay’s location in the Scarborough Town Centre in addition to confirmed cases at The Keg and Joey restaurants at Sherway in addition to cases at Joey and the Foot Locker at Yorkdale in recent days.

The Star’s Rob Ferguson has the story.

11 a.m. (updated): Ontario is reporting 133 cases today, the seventh day in a row that the number is in the triple digits, based on the provincial count, last seen in July.

No new deaths were reported.

Health Minister Christine Elliott tweeted that with 137 more resolved, there is a decrease in the number of active cases. The province processed more than 24,000 tests on Tuesday, and the province has now done more than three million tests to lead the country in daily testing, Elliott said.

Locally, 29 of Ontario’s 34 public health units are reporting five or fewer cases, with 21 of them reporting no new cases.

10 a.m.: A Quebec teachers’ union says it’s going to court to demand the government put in place a rapid COVID-19 testing strategy in the school system.

The Federation autonome de l’enseignement, which represents some 49,000 teachers, said today it has not yet seen evidence such a mechanism exists despite a promise made by Health Minister Christian Dube on Aug. 10.

The union says it will also ask the Quebec Superior Court to force the government to hand over all the documents related to the province’s health plan for schools, including data related to COVID-19 infections.

Union President Sylvain Mallette says the legal action is an attempt to get answers from the province, which he says has refused to provide the information unions need to keep students and teachers safe.

Meanwhile, health officials in Quebec City are working to contain an outbreak of about 30 cases tied to a karaoke bar.

The cases have prompted Bar Le Kirouac to close until Sept. 9, and officials to urge the population to respect health directives, especially during gatherings with alcohol involved.

9:44 a.m. Spend even a little time on gardening sites and between photos of bedraggled tomatoes, and well-fed insects, it’s clear the 2020 growing season has been a rough one.

Professor of Horticulture at Niagara College, Paul Zammit, watches the growing season closely, and this summer did present gardeners with extra challenges. “It certainly has not been a typical gardening season…the weather provided ups and downs and prolonged intense heat.” Because of this, he says, “Cucumbers and zucchini seem to have performed poorly, with very little fruit set, stunted plants and loads of cucumber beetles eating the foliage plus squash vine borer destroying the plants.”

Zammit believes we are experiencing more “pest” insects because more people are growing edibles, making more food available to them. Nursery and Landscape Specialist, Jennifer Llewellyn, at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has also received reports of greater populations of tomato hornworms, squash vine borer, and cucumber beetle. Llewellyn also thinks it may be a result of more people growing edibles this year; another unexpected side-effect – along with stockpiling supplies and first-time backyard hen keeping – of COVID-19.

Read the full story by Signe Langford

9:36 a.m.: Joe Biden plans to hammer President Donald Trump on Wednesday for not helping the nation’s schools reopen safely during the coronavirus pandemic, as the Democratic challenger tries to keep the spotlight on the Republican incumbent’s handling of the outbreak and the nation’s overall security.

Biden and his wife, Jill, a longtime college professor and former high school teacher, will meet with public health experts to talk about school reopening options. Then the candidate will deliver remarks — his second speech in three days — outlining his ideas and accusing the president of making the country less safe.

The event in Wilmington, Delaware, is the latest in a series of dueling efforts by Trump and Biden to cast the other as a threat to Americans’ day-to-day security. It will highlight their vastly different arguments, with Trump steering debate toward “law and order” and Biden pushing a broad referendum on Trump’s competence.

“President Trump has no plan,” said Biden adviser Symone Sanders, previewing the former vice-president’s remarks on schools and the pandemic. “Instead,” she continued, “he thinks that a fear-mongering campaign stoking violence is going to help him.”

9:32 a.m. Thailand’s prime minister on Wednesday congratulated the nation for having achieved 100 days without a confirmed locally transmitted case of the coronavirus, even as security along the border with Myanmar is being stepped up as a measure against the disease.

Health officials did not highlight the achievement, but Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha described it as a “good accomplishment” toward making the country safe. He used the occasion to urge the government and people to work together to bring the country out of the COVID-19 crisis.

“If we don’t help each other, none of us can move forward and the country can’t move forward, and the people will suffer more than they already have,” he said.

Thailand has sustained relatively light health damage from the pandemic, even though in January it was the first country outside China to confirm a case. But its economy has been devastated by the absence of foreign tourists, who are banned from entry, and by a drop in exports.

Thai health authorities reported eight new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, all in people arriving from abroad, bringing the country’s total to 3,425, including 58 deaths.

9:29 a.m. Dollarama Inc. topped expectations as it reported a second-quarter profit of $142.5 million and a seven per cent increase in sales compared with a year ago.

The retailer says the profit amounted to 46 cents per diluted share for the quarter ended Aug. 2 compared with a profit of $143.2 million or 45 cents per diluted share in the same quarter a year earlier when it had more shares outstanding.

Sales in the quarter totalled $1.01 billion, up from $946 million a year ago, boosted by an increase in its number of stores and higher sales of summer seasonal items as well as household and cleaning products.

Analysts on average had expected a profit of 42 cents per share and $975.7 million in revenue, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

Comparable store sales excluding temporarily closed stores grew 5.4 per cent, while comparable store sales including temporarily closed stores rose 2.5 per cent.

Dollarama says the average transaction size rose 41.7 per cent, but there was a 25.7 per cent drop in the number of transactions as customers reduced how often they shopped but bought more when they did.

9:15 a.m. Millions of Americans are counting on a COVID-19 vaccine to curb the global pandemic and return life to normal.

While one or more options could be available toward the end of this year or early next, the path to delivering vaccines to 330 million people remains unclear for the local health officials expected to carry out the work.

“We haven’t gotten a lot of information about how this is going to roll out,” said Dr. Umair Shah, executive director of Texas’ Harris County Public Health department, which includes Houston.

In a four-page memo this summer, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told health departments across the country to draft vaccination plans by Oct. 1 “to coincide with the earliest possible release of COVID-19 vaccine.”

But health departments that have been underfunded for decades say they currently lack the staff, money and tools to educate people about vaccines and then to distribute, administer and track hundreds of millions of doses. Nor do they know when, or if, they’ll get federal aid to do that.

Dozens of doctors, nurses and health officials interviewed by Kaiser Health News and The Associated Press expressed concern about the country’s readiness to conduct mass vaccinations, as well as frustration with months of inconsistent information from the federal government.

9:05 a.m. South Korea was so proud of its handling of the coronavirus pandemic that it coined a term for it: K-Quarantine, named after the global musical phenomenon K-pop.

Its two-pronged strategy of fighting the virus while keeping the economy running appeared to work. The country all but halted a large outbreak ​without closing its borders, locking down towns or ​drawing an outcry over draconian restrictions on speech and movement. ​The country was held up as a model for the rest of the world.

But now, South Korea is struggling with a second wave of infections, and its strategy seems as precarious as ever. The new wave is spreading from the populous Seoul metropolitan area and through people deeply suspicious of President Moon Jae-in’s epidemiological efforts. To complicate matters more, some of the government’s strongest allies in the fight against​ COVID-19, young doctors, have turned against Moon. They have gone on strike, unhappy with his medical reform program.

The government is also trying to sustain a fragile balance between controlling the virus and safeguarding the economy, and between ​using ​government power ​to protect public health and not infringing on civil liberties.

“Our quarantine strategy, once considered a model to ​follow in the rest of the world, is suddenly faced with a crisis,” Moon said last week. “The whole nation is in a difficult situation. The people’s lives are crumbling.”

South Korea’s daily caseload of new infections​, once fewer than 10, has been in the triple digits​ every day since Aug. 14, taking the country of 50 million people to more than 20,000 cases and 326 deaths, according to a New York Times database. ​The virus has spread quickly from churches and a large anti-government protest rally. Moon’s government has threatened lawsuits​ and prosecution against ​churchgoers and protesters accused of impeding officials’ efforts to control the epidemic. But they’ve pushed back, calling him a dictator who is running the country under “quarantine martial law.”

8:50 a.m. U.S. companies added jobs at a modest pace last month, a private survey found, a sign that while hiring continues, it is only soaking up a relatively small proportion of the unemployed.

Payroll processor ADP said Wednesday that businesses added 428,000 jobs in August, a figure that before the pandemic would have represented a healthy gain. But the increase represents a small slice of the 12 million jobs that have been lost to the spread of the coronavirus.

ADP said the bulk of the gains were at large companies, which added 298,000 jobs. Small businesses with less than 50 employees gained just 52,000 positions, while medium-sized firms — with between 50 and 499 employees — added 79,000 jobs.

ADP’s figures do not include government workers and frequently diverge from the Labor Department’s official jobs report, to be released Friday. ADP revised up its July job gain to 212,000, but that is still far below the 1.4 million additional jobs that month reported by the federal government.

8:16 a.m. This month’s road cycling world championships were moved to Imola, Italy, on Wednesday after Swiss host Aigle-Martigny backed out because of a government ruling limiting mass gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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The revised event from Sept. 24-27 will feature only elite men’s and women’s categories, eliminating junior and under-23 races.

“The majority of the top athletes in the elite men and women categories are already in Europe, as opposed to their younger counterparts (juniors and under 23) whose national delegations, in a significant number of cases, will not be able to travel to Italy due to travel restrictions imposed in numerous countries,” the International Cycling Union said in a statement.

The Swiss organizers of the championships, which were supposed to be centred around Aigle, where the UCI is based, said they could not continue within a federal limit of 1,000 people for major events during the coronavirus pandemic.

7:47 a.m. Macy’s Inc. is inching back toward normalcy as it approaches the critical holiday season, posting profit that beat expectations in the second quarter.

The department store’s adjusted net loss of $251 million (U.S.) was well ahead of the $538 million (U.S.) loss anticipated by analysts. Comparable sales in the quarter ended Aug. 1, a key measure of retailer performance, fell 35 per cent, roughly in line with expectations as it tries to recover from a sharper decline earlier in the pandemic.

7:33 a.m. Greek authorities imposed a 14-day quarantine on an overcrowded migrant camp on the island of Lesbos Wednesday, after one man who had been living outside the official camp tested positive for the coronavirus.

The 40-year-old Somali man is the first confirmed coronavirus case at the Moria camp, which as of Aug. 31 housed 12,714 people, well over its capacity of 2,757.

Greece’s Migration Ministry said the infected man was granted refugee status and a residence permit to live in Greece and had left the camp on July 17. However, he returned in recent days and had been living in a tent outside the camp fence. He is currently hospitalized in isolation on Lesbos.

The Migration Ministry said no entry or exit from the camp would be allowed until Sept. 15 and that the police presence would be increased around the camp to ensure the lockdown is not breached.

Only essential staff will be allowed to enter the camp after undergoing temperature checks.

6:35 a.m. Some European basketball club competitions have been rescheduled because of various coronavirus restrictions on the continent.

The regular season of the Europe Cup is now scheduled to begin in January. FIBA had hoped to start the second-tier competition by October.

FIBA also says the EuroCup women’s qualifying rounds have been pushed back to December. The regular season is scheduled to begin in January.

FIBA still hopes to start its women’s EuroLeague on time with the regular season scheduled to begin in mid-October.

The FIBA Europe board will next meet in October and will discuss holding its competitions in single-venue “bubbles.”

6:15 a.m.: India registered 78,357 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, raising its total over 3.7 million as the government eases pandemic restrictions nationwide to help the battered economy.

India, a nation of 1.4 billion people, is fast becoming the world’s coronavirus epicentre. It has been reporting the highest daily increases in new cases for more than three weeks, and at its current rate is likely to soon pass Brazil and ultimately the United States in total reported cases.

The Health Ministry on Wednesday also reported 1,045 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 66,333. It now has the third-most deaths after recently passing Mexico’s toll, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

5:30 a.m.: U.S. laboratories have struggled for months to secure desperately needed supplies for COVID-19 screenings, but another testing crisis is brewing.

Other workhorse supplies are back-ordered too, hampering labs’ ability to detect urinary tract infections, sexually-transmitted infections like chlamydia and gonorrhea, gastroenteritis —also known as the stomach flu —and more.

“The impact of this supply chain is much, much greater than if we can’t get our COVID tests in 24 hours,” said Melissa Miller, who directs the clinical and molecular microbiology labs at UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Miller has been told some products are back-ordered until January 2021.

Especially with flu season approaching, “I’m very worried, much more about non-COVID stuff right now,” she said.

5 a.m.: With the countdown to back-to-school on, boards are racing to make sure kids staying home this fall have access to the computers and internet they need for remote learning.

But big gaps remain, say some advocates, as the pandemic puts a spotlight on the digital divide in the GTA.

Despite the efforts of principals and teachers, Vivian Lee, a charity consultant who has worked in the non-profit sector on education for marginalized youth, describes the situation as “a total tire fire mess.” While it’s not as bad as in remote northern Ontario communities that are “basically in 2005,” the pandemic has exposed existing fault lines around internet access and tech in the GTA.

“There’s been a lot of tape and glue approaches,” she said. “Now you’ve got a visible digital divide.”

Read the full story from May Warren here.

4:15 a.m.: Australia’s coronavirus hot spot, Victoria state, extended its state of emergency for another six months as its weekly average of new infections dipped.

The Victorian Parliament’s upper chamber passed legislation by a 20-19 vote to extend the state of emergency, which enhances the government’s powers to impose pandemic restrictions.

The government had wanted a 12-month extension.

The state health department reported 90 new infections and six deaths in the latest 24-hour period. There were 70 new infections reported on Tuesday.

4 a.m.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau isn’t letting the COVID-19 pandemic stop his usual practice of travelling to various regions of the country during the summer — he’s just doing it virtually this year.

He’ll spend much of Wednesday in meetings with British Columbia political, business, environmental and academic leaders, all from the comfort of his office in Ottawa.

And he’ll do another similar virtual tour of the Atlantic provinces on Thursday.

The summer is usually an opportunity for the prime minister and other federal political leaders to travel widely and engage in outreach with community leaders and voters outside the Ottawa bubble.

Among other things, Trudeau usually convenes a cabinet retreat and attends a Liberal caucus retreat outside the nation’s capital each year before Parliament resumes in the fall. He, his ministers and Liberal MPs use those events to fan out into the host communities, listening to local concerns, making some announcements and generally promoting the government’s message.

4 a.m.: The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. EDT on Sept. 2, 2020:

There are 129,425 confirmed cases in Canada.

_ Quebec: 62,614 confirmed (including 5,762 deaths, 55,438 resolved)

_ Ontario: 42,421 confirmed (including 2,812 deaths, 38,369 resolved)

_ Alberta: 14,066 confirmed (including 241 deaths, 12,427 resolved)

_ British Columbia: 5,848 confirmed (including 209 deaths, 4,505 resolved)

_ Saskatchewan: 1,622 confirmed (including 24 deaths, 1,567 resolved)

_ Manitoba: 1,232 confirmed (including 14 deaths, 759 resolved)

_ Nova Scotia: 1,085 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,014 resolved)

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 269 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 265 resolved)

_ New Brunswick: 191 confirmed (including 2 deaths, 186 resolved)

_ Prince Edward Island: 44 confirmed (including 41 resolved)

_ Yukon: 15 confirmed (including 15 resolved)

_ Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)

_ Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 5 resolved)

_ Nunavut: No confirmed cases

_ Total: 129,425 (0 presumptive, 129,425 confirmed including 9,132 deaths, 114,604 resolved)

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 2, 2020.

Tuesday: Toronto resident Neil Brereton couldn’t use his vouchers to purchase a new flight because it took so long to get them. He’s one of many who say that even after complaining, they’ve seen no action so far.

“They told me the vouchers hadn’t been issued yet. I was shocked. Some of the original flights were cancelled in the spring,” said a stunned Brereton this week. With seats disappearing rapidly, he bit the bullet and spent the $2,200 and points.

“To be going over to scatter my father’s ashes and to take care of his estate, and then to have to deal with this? It’s awful. I can’t believe they’d do this.”

According to statistics released Tuesday by the Canadian Transportation Agency, it has received more than 8,000 complaints about Canadian airlines since March — more than it received in all of 2018 and 2019.

Read the full story from Josh Rubin here.

Read Tuesday’s rolling file