Today’s coronavirus news: TDSB delays start of virtual learning until Sept. 22; Doug Ford fears second wave set to hit as Ontario reports 313 cases

KEY FACTS

  • 4:43 p.m.: TDSB delays start of virtual learning until Sept. 22

  • 12:26 p.m.: The Middlesex-London Health Unit declares outbreak after 5 Western University students test positive

  • 10:18 a.m. Ontario reporting the most COVID-19 cases in the province in more than three months

  • 8:25 a.m.: Tory to ask Ford if strip clubs should be ordered closed

  • 7:37 a.m.: Three southern Ontario school boards report infections

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Monday. This file is no longer updating. Click here to read the latest. Web links to longer stories if available.

5:47 p.m.: A House subcommittee examining President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic is launching an investigation into reports that political appointees have meddled with routine government scientific data to better align with Trump’s public statements.

The Democrat-led subcommittee said Monday that it is requesting transcribed interviews with seven officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services, including communications aide Michael Caputo. Caputo has often publicly pushed back on CDC statements about the coronavirus and said falsely in a Facebook video on Sunday that the CDC has a “resistance unit” to undermine Trump, according to The New York Times. His page has since been made private.

5:39 p.m.: The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 5:38 p.m. EDT on Sept. 14, 2020:

There are 137,693 confirmed cases in Canada.

_ Quebec: 65,262 confirmed (including 5,780 deaths, 57,428 resolved)

_ Ontario: 44,817 confirmed (including 2,816 deaths, 39,974 resolved)

_ Alberta: 15,833 confirmed (including 254 deaths, 14,041 resolved)

_ British Columbia: 6,962 confirmed (including 213 deaths, 5,273 resolved)

_ Saskatchewan: 1,731 confirmed (including 24 deaths, 1,604 resolved)

_ Manitoba: 1,449 confirmed (including 16 deaths, 1,176 resolved)

_ Nova Scotia: 1,086 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,020 resolved)

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 271 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 266 resolved)

_ New Brunswick: 194 confirmed (including 2 deaths, 189 resolved)

_ Prince Edward Island: 55 confirmed (including 47 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: 137,693 (0 presumptive, 137,693 confirmed including 9,173 deaths, 121,051 resolved)

5:30 p.m.: The Salvation Army is starting its annual holiday fundraising campaign earlier than ever in an attempt to “rescue Christmas.”

Facing an increased demand amid the coronavirus pandemic with high unemployment, the nation’s largest social services organization said it will start collecting donations in its iconic red kettles with bell-ringing volunteers Monday instead of waiting until closer to Thanksgiving as in past years.

4:43 p.m.: (Updated) A few hundred Western University students lined up on campus Monday to get tested for COVID-19 after five students living off campus tested positive for the disease over the weekend.

A spokeswoman said the school in London, Ont., is using harm reduction education to help students understand the risks involved with large gatherings and not following physical distancing and mask-wearing rules.

“We want our students to make wise choices, to take care of themselves, to take care of each other and to take care of our community,” said Jennifer Massey, the associate vice president of student experience at the school.

4:30 p.m.: The Manitoba government is once again expanding a wage-subsidy program designed to help create jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Back To Work program, which offers money to businesses that hire new staff or rehire people who have been laid off during the pandemic, is being extended by two months until Dec. 31.

4:22 p.m.: The Bloc Quebecois says leader Yves-Francois Blanchet and the party’s whole caucus are in self-isolation after a member of his staff tested positive for COVID-19.

A statement from the party says the employee received the positive test today, days after the Bloc held a full caucus meeting.

Bloc spokeswoman Carolane Landry says everyone potentially affected will be screened to ensure they’re healthy and will follow public health guidelines.

4 p.m.: The Toronto District School Board has delayed its virtual learning again for its high school and elementary school students, to Sept. 22, to allow time “to assign teachers and timetable our secondary classes.”

The first day of the virtual school had already been delayed once and was supposed to start this Thursday.

“Since that decision was made, the number of families choosing the Virtual School has continued to grow — largely from families switching from in-person learning,” the board wrote in a letter sent out to parents Monday afternoon.

“Between Tuesday of last week and today, we have gone from approximately 66,000 students to more than 72,000 students in the Virtual School resulting in the addition of more than 200 virtual classrooms — all requiring a teacher.”

3:50 p.m.: A trio of federal cabinet ministers is warning COVID-19 researchers to take additional precautions to protect their efforts from thieves and vandals.

The statement today says the federal government is concerned about “hostile actors” targeting pandemic-related research in this country and urges government scientists, academics and private-sector workers to double- and triple-check their security measures.

3:38 p.m.: The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 3:38 p.m. EDT on Sept. 14, 2020:

There are 137,275 confirmed cases in Canada.

_ Quebec: 65,262 confirmed (including 5,780 deaths, 57,428 resolved)

_ Ontario: 44,817 confirmed (including 2,816 deaths, 39,974 resolved)

_ Alberta: 15,415 confirmed (including 253 deaths, 13,718 resolved)

_ British Columbia: 6,962 confirmed (including 213 deaths, 5,273 resolved)

_ Saskatchewan: 1,731 confirmed (including 24 deaths, 1,604 resolved)

_ Manitoba: 1,449 confirmed (including 16 deaths, 1,176 resolved)

_ Nova Scotia: 1,086 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,020 resolved)

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 271 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 266 resolved)

_ New Brunswick: 194 confirmed (including 2 deaths, 189 resolved)

_ Prince Edward Island: 55 confirmed (including 47 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: 137,275 (0 presumptive, 137,275 confirmed including 9,172 deaths, 120,728 resolved)

2:40 p.m.: As Ontario reported the most COVID-19 cases in the province in more than three months, Premier Doug Ford fears a second wave is set to hit.

“Is it coming? Yes, I believe it’s coming,” Ford said at his daily teleconference at Queen’s Park on Monday.

“A consistent spike over a two-week period, it’s concerning,” he said.

“Every option is on the table … including further shutdowns.”

His comments came after in the wake of 313 new infections being detected Sunday, when 31,143 tests were conducted.

2:28 p.m.: Canadians should brace for a shortage of office furniture, such as desks and chairs, as people continue to study and work from home this fall.

Ikea Canada spokeswoman Kristin Newbigging says the company has seen an increase in demand for office furnishings and other gear needed for work-from-home set-ups.

This comes as a looming second wave of COVID-19 means many Canadians are not returning to the office or school just yet.

2:24 p.m.: The Quebec Student Sports Federation has cancelled university sports for the fall semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Universities are permitted activities with another school in cross-country, soccer and golf. But “interteam activities” are not allowed in football or rugby.

The federation is continuing to allow elementary schools, high schools and CEGEPs to announce if they will play out their fall seasons, as long as they are in accordance with their recovery plans and provincial health directives.

2:13 p.m.: Panama lifted a five-month-old coronavirus measure Monday that had restricted women from going out one day, and men the next.

The rules limiting when people can could go out for essentials proved controversial because it led to harassment and discrimination against transgender people.

Health Minister Luis Antonio Sucre said urged caution despite lifting of the rule, which had been in place since March.

2 p.m.: Two of France’s biggest cities with COVID-19 infection rates gathering speed even faster than the national surge in new cases are tightening limits on public activities as the French government seeks to ward off a new nationwide lockdown.

The stricter restrictions announced Monday in Marseille and Bordeaux were responses to a demand from France’s prime minister that both cities take additional steps to stem their growing numbers of infections, which were putting pressure on regional health services.

In Bordeaux, the top government official for the region announced a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people in public parks, along the city’s picturesque river and on beaches.

Also banned are fun fairs, antique fairs and neighbourhood parties. The new rules also limit the size of large public gatherings to no more than 1,000 people, below the national benchmark of 5,000 people. That limit covers places like stadiums and concert halls, as well as demonstrations.

To counter partying, Bordeaux cafes and restaurants will also no longer be able to serve clients who are standing up and will not be able to play music outdoors. Dancing is forbidden in public venues, including at weddings. Drinking alcohol in public is also banned in Bordeaux, a centre of the French wine industry.

The regional government also asked Bordeaux residents to limit private family gatherings, singling out weddings, to a maximum of 10 people.

1:53 p.m.: A federal judge has struck down Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s pandemic restrictions that required people to stay at home, placed size limits on gatherings and ordered “non-life-sustaining” businesses to shut down, calling them unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV on Monday sided with plaintiffs that included hair salons, drive-in movie theatres, a farmer’s market vendor, a horse trainer and several Republican officeholders who sued as individuals.

Stickman wrote in his ruling that the Wolf administration’s pandemic policies have been overreaching, arbitrary and violated citizens’ constitutional rights.

Wolf has lifted many of the restrictions since the lawsuit was filed in May, allowing businesses to reopen and cancelling a statewide stay-at-home order. But his administration has maintained some capacity restrictions and limitations. A spokesperson for Wolf said the administration was reviewing the decision.

1:07 a.m.: The head of the Ontario Hospital Association is warning that increasing COVID-19 case rates could lead to another provincial lockdown.

OHA president Anthony Dale says the province’s accelerating infections rates in Toronto, Peel and Ottawa could spread to the rest of Ontario if people don’t respect public health guidelines.

He says Ontario residents must practise physical distancing, wear masks when required, and neither host nor attend unsafe gatherings and parties.

Dale says he is making the request of Ontario residents on behalf of hospital staff who are the anchor of the province’s pandemic response.

He says some people have been lulled into a false sense of security by case numbers which had been decreasing last month.

His statement comes as Ontario’s new case count increased for the fourth consecutive day, with 313 cases reported today along with one new death from the virus.

12:28 p.m.: Voters in New Brunswick headed to the polls Monday after a provincial election campaign notable for the unusual steps candidates had to take to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

After casting his ballot at a church hall in his riding of Quispamsis, Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs said voting went smoothly, despite COVID restrictions.

“Well that was well setup,” Higgs told reporters. “It was very well organized, very disciplined.”

Thanks to health and hygiene rules, there were no handshakes, no kissing of babies, no rallies and no community barbecues during the province’s 28-day campaign.

Much of the low-key campaign was conducted on social media, though there was some door-to-door campaigning — all done at a safe distance.

Higgs said the biggest difference he noticed at the polling station was the hand sanitizer and everyone wearing masks.

“This is just another example that democracy will continue. We were confident we could make this work safely,” he said.

Higgs — who often wore a full face shield while on the hustings — called the election only 21 months into his first term, saying his minority government needed stability and a majority to govern a province initially left reeling by the pandemic.

12:26 p.m.: The Middlesex-London Health Unit is declaring a community COVID-19 outbreak after five Western University students tested positive for the virus.

The unit says all five students live in the area and had multiple interactions with people at downtown bars and restaurants.

It says more positive cases are expected in the coming days because of the number of contacts associated with the investigation.

The MLHU says the students weren’t attending classes or activities on campus, but did have multiple interactions with people in neighbouring houses.

It’s advising anyone who went to downtown clubs, bars and restaurants to self-monitor for symptoms and to get tested if any surface.

Contact tracing staff are continuing to reach out to people who came in close contact with the positive cases of COVID-19 in the region.

10:32 a.m.: Mayor Tory is urging residents to become tourists in their own city and explore new neighbourhoods in an effort to help support businesses being crushed by the impacts of COVID-19.

“It will allow the darkness to subside,” said Tory, speaking at a press conference on Monday at Hotel X overlooking Ontario Place.

The initiative, called ShowloveTO, will launch programming in all 25 wards in the city, including video art installations and an app offering self-guided walking tours that Tory promised will introduce even lifelong residents to parts of the city that will be new to them.

Residents are also being asked to support local restaurants if they can, to help shore up one of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic.

Tory said all the activities can be undertaken safely.

“In a way the pandemic hurt the soul of the city,” he said. “We have to have a program to give the city some life, give it some of its soul back.”

10:18 a.m.: (updated) Ontario is reporting the most COVID-19 cases in the province in more than three months.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said there were 313 new infections detected Sunday when 31,143 tests were conducted.

That’s the most in one day since there were 415 on June 7 when there were 19,374 tests done.

The news comes as millions of Ontario schoolchildren are back in classrooms for the first time in six months.

Elliott noted more than three-quarters of the cases are from three regions with 112 in Toronto, 71 in Peel Region, and 60 in Ottawa.

“All other PHUs (public health units) have fewer than 10 new cases, except for York with 13 cases. Fifteen PHUs have no new cases,” she said on Twitter Monday.

The minister noted “67 per of today’s cases are in people under the age of 40.”

Queen’s Park says 2,816 people have died from the virus since the outbreak struck in March. Data reconciliation actually lowered the death toll by one from the day before.

Read the full story from the Star’s Robert Benzie

10:04 a.m.: A global development agency said the world’s 20 major industrialized nations have seen their economies shrink in an unprecedented manner between April and June amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Monday that the gross domestic product dropped by a record 6.9 per cent in the second quarter of this year in the G-20 area.

This organization noted that is “significantly larger” than the 1.6 per cent fall recorded in the first quarter of 2009 at the height of the financial crisis.

Between April and June this year, the GDP most dramatically fell by 25.2 in India, by 20.4 per cent in the UK and by 17.1 per cent in Mexico. It plunged by 9.1 per cent in the United States.

The OECD said that China was the only G-20 country recording growth (11.5 per cent) in that period. The organization said that reflects “the earlier onset of the pandemic in this country and subsequent recovery.”

9:40 a.m.: Officials in southern Germany are considering imposing hefty fines against a 26-year-old American woman linked to a cluster of coronavirus cases in the Alpine resort town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, including at a hotel that caters to U.S. military personnel.

German media report that the woman, who lives locally and wasn’t named, had visited several bars in the town last week despite having symptoms and being told to quarantine while waiting for her COVID-19 test result.

“Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a model case of stupidity and an example for how quickly one can become infected,” said Bavaria’s governor, Markus Soeder.

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“Such recklessness must have consequences,” he added. “That’s why it’s reasonable for the health authorities to consider, after carefully examining the case, whether to impose appropriately high fines.”

The woman, who wasn’t named for privacy reasons, has been blamed for a spike in cases that pushed Garmisch-Partenkirchen above the threshold of 50 new cases per 100,000 in a week at which authorities are required to impose further infection control measures. In Garmisch-Partenkirchen, these include a 10 p.m. curfew on bars and restaurants and a rule that no more than five people can gather in public.

Germany’s disease control centre on Monday reported 927 new cases across the country in the past day.

8:30 a.m.: The Ontario government said Monday it is investing $175 million this year for upgrades, repairs and maintenance in 129 hospitals across the province, including $50 million for COVID-19 related and other urgent projects.

Trillium Health Partners will receive over $3.4 million to support projects across all three sites.

Projects include replacing HVAC systems to improve indoor air quality, installing newer and more reliable nurse call systems for patients, and repairing roofs and elevators to maintain the facilities, the province said.

The announcement was made by Health Minister Christine Elliott.

8:25 a.m.: Mayor John Tory told CP24 on Monday he will ask the Ontario government if strip clubs should be ordered closed.

Tory was reacting to an outbreak at Club Paradise on Bloor Street West that follows infections at the Brass Rail on Yonge Street.

“Do they really need to be open?” Tory said, noting the provincial order forces small theatres to stay closed while strip bars reopened.

Tory also said he’ll meet with officials including public health chief Dr. Eileen de Villa on Monday to talk about rising COVID-19 infection rates and what the city can do to slow them.

He praised UHN president Kevin Smith for speaking out in the Star, agreeing with Smith that people have relaxed their personal anti-virus habits and that is helping drive the virus resurgence. People aren’t wearing masks as much and going to dinner parties outside their social bubble, he said.

“We’re going to have to redouble our efforts,” to enforce responsible behaviour, especially with kids heading back to school, Tory said.

“It’s a very complicated, unknown enemy we’re dealing with here.”

8:20 a.m.: As COVID-19 swept through southern U.S., Mel Prince watched with alarm as some of the HIV positive patients she helps in the rural Black Belt stopped showing up for lab tests and doctor’s visits.

Some fell back into drug and alcohol abuse. Others feared the AIDS virus made them more vulnerable to the coronavirus and refused to leave their homes.

Around the same time, Prince’s HIV organization in Selma, Alabama, stopped sending staff to health fairs and other sites to test people for HIV.

“The virus has made it very challenging for us,” said Prince, executive director of Selma AIR. “We just continue to let people know we’re here, and we’re trying our best to take care of their needs.”

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the delivery of all types of health care services in the U.S. Doctors have put off surgeries to conserve hospital beds and medical supplies for COVID-19 patients and turned to telemedicine for routine consultations to avoid potentially exposing patients to the virus.

The fight against HIV has not been spared. Clinics have stopped or limited testing for the disease, and public health officials overwhelmed by demands to control COVID-19 have shifted staff away from tracking HIV patients.

7:48 a.m. Global shares mostly rose Monday, continuing a period of increased volatility, as traders awaited cues from the U.S. central bank later in the week.

U.S. shares appeared set for gains with Dow futures up 1% and S&P 500 futures up 1.3 per cent before the market open. France’s CAC 40 gained 0.2 per cent to 5,041, while Germany’s DAX dropped 0.1 per cent to 13,189. Britain’s FTSE 100 edged down 0.2 per cent to 6,023.

Shares in SoftBank, which announced Sunday that it was selling Britain’s Arm Holdings to computer graphics chip company Nvidia for $40 billion, jumped 9 per cent. SoftBank spent $32 billion to acquire Arm in 2016. Nvidia is best known for its graphics processing chips, while Arm is renowned as an innovator in the “internet of Things.”

7:37 a.m.: Three southern Ontario school boards, including two in GTA, have reported at least one COVID-19 case in their communities on Sunday, according to public health.

The three schools are Louise Arbour Secondary School located in Brampton, Our Lady of Fatima CES in Woodbridge and Walpole North Elementary in Hagersville, just south of Brantford.

Each school put out a letter to parents and students notifying them of the cases and how they will be dealing with them moving forward.

Read the full story by Breanna Xavier-Carter

6:48 a.m.: Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, who has made a career out of bouncing back from setbacks, was released Monday from the hospital after an “insidious” bout of COVID-19 that he said was the most dangerous challenge he had ever faced.

Wearing a suit and smiling after taking off his face mask, the 83-year-old Berlusconi said doctors at San Raffaele hospital in Milan told him he had the highest levels of virus they had seen in the tens of thousands of samples they had taken over the past six months.

An emotional Berlusconi urged Italians to take the virus seriously and “rigorously” adhere to mask mandates, social distancing norms and frequent handwashing.

6:20 a.m.: South Korea has reported its lowest daily virus tally in about a month as it began easing its tough social distancing rules in the greater Seoul area.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said the 109 new cases took the country’s total to 22,285 with 363 deaths. The daily increase has stayed in the 100s for 12 straight days, but Monday’s increase was the lowest since mid-August.

The government on Sunday relaxed its physical distancing guidelines in the Seoul area, citing a downward trend in new infections and economic worries.

6:19 a.m.: India reopened its Parliament after more than five months Monday even as the country continues to report the most daily new infections of the coronavirus in the world and daily virus deaths remain above 1,000.

Lawmakers must wear masks and follow other sanitization protocols, sit on seats separated by transparent plastic sheets and keep their meetings limited.

6:18 a.m.: Pakistan’s prime minister and education officials say all arrangements are in place to ensure that every child can go to school safely.

Authorities are preparing to reopen schools from Tuesday amid a steady decline in COVID-19 deaths and infections.

Prime Minister Imran Khan took to twitter Monday saying “tomorrow we will welcome millions of children back to school. It is our priority & collective responsibility to ensure that every child can go to school safely to learn.”

6:17 a.m.: Sweden has removed Britain from its list of countries with travel warnings, allowing Swedes to travel to the United Kingdom.

At the same time, the Foreign Ministry in Stockholm said Sweden is now part of a group of countries for which the United Kingdom considers that the risks regarding the virus are lower and is no longer covered by Britain’s quarantine regulations.

6:15 a.m.: Berlin’s top health official has expressed concern about the rising number of coronavirus cases in Germany, particularly among young people.

Dilek Kalayci told public broadcaster rbb that experience showed young people could easily become “super spreaders” resulting in older, more vulnerable people becoming sick with COVID-19 too.

Germany’s disease control centre on Monday reported 927 new cases across the country in the past day.

One county that’s seen the number of infections in a week rise above the threshold of 50 per 100,000 is Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria.

Locals there have reacted with anger to news that a 26-year-old American woman with symptoms had visited several local bars despite being told to quarantine while waiting for her test result.

As a result, all restaurants in the Alpine town must close at 10 p.m. for the next week.

5:47 a.m.: There are 136,659 confirmed cases in Canada.

Quebec: 64,986 confirmed (including 5,780 deaths, 57,268 resolved)

Ontario: 44,504 confirmed (including 2,815 deaths, 39,841 resolved)

Alberta: 15,415 confirmed (including 253 deaths, 13,718 resolved)

British Columbia: 6,962 confirmed (including 213 deaths, 5,273 resolved)

Saskatchewan: 1,726 confirmed (including 24 deaths, 1,603 resolved)

Manitoba: 1,428 confirmed (including 16 deaths, 1,173 resolved)

Nova Scotia: 1,086 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,020 resolved)

Newfoundland and Labrador: 271 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 266 resolved)

New Brunswick: 193 confirmed (including 2 deaths, 189 resolved)

Prince Edward Island: 55 confirmed (including 47 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: 136,659 (0 presumptive, 136,659 confirmed including 9,171 deaths, 120,431 resolved)

5:44 a.m.: Ontario’s legislature returns for its fall session today, but with the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting daily life, the Progressive Conservative government’s house leader says it will not be business as usual.

Paul Calandra says the legislature will continue to respect public health rules while returning to its regular four-day-a-week schedule for proceedings.

He says the government will be focused in the coming weeks on the impacts of COVID-19 on the economy, school reopenings, and the health-care system.

Calandra says Ontario’s 2020-2021 budget — which was delayed by the pandemic — will be delivered on November 15.

The government is also expected to table a formal report on the state of emergency declared by the province earlier this year in response to the pandemic.

Calandra says the government is also leaving itself leeway in the legislative schedule in case it needs to introduce additional legislation to address COVID-19 this fall.

5:41 a.m.: Infectious-disease specialists warn we could face a double whammy of COVID-19 and flu this fall and winter. Among those urging vigilance is Jeanne Marrazzo, a director of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and a physician researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“The big concern this year, of course, is that we are going to see what could be a perfect storm,” she said. “We really can’t be complacent about this.”

The difficulty is not just that flu and COVID-19 will be circulating at the same time, said John Zurlo, chief of the division of infectious diseases at Thomas Jefferson University. It is hard to tell one disease from the other.

Both illnesses can be characterized by fever, aches, and shortness of breath. Among the few distinguishing features is the sudden loss of smell experienced by some COVID-19 patients. Flu can impair the sense of smell, too, but in that case the culprit is a stuffy nose, whereas in COVID-19 the reason is temporary damage to olfactory cells, Zurlo said.

Monday 5:39 a.m.: The morning bell Monday marked the first entrance to the classroom for the children of Codogno, Italy, since February 21, when panicked parents were sent to pick up their children after the northern Italian town gained notoriety as the first in the West to record local transmission of the coronavirus.

While the reopening of Italian schools marks an important step in a return to pre-lockdown routine, the step bears more symbolic weight in the 11 towns in Lombardy and Veneto that were the first to be sealed off as coronavirus red zones.

Codogno Mayor Francesco Passerini said the town of 17,000 has had virtually no new cases for months now, but authorities are not being complacent. He said they have spared no effort in working with school administrators to provide maximum protection to the city’s 3,500 students.

Monday 4 a.m. Some Ontario school boards are delaying the start of virtual learning due to a growing demand for online education in the run-up to back-to-school.

Three Toronto-area boards say they’ve seen a surge in parents opting to keep their kids out of the classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic in the eleventh hour, further complicating the already difficult task of co-ordinating classes.

The Peel District School Board, for instance, says it had to push back live online classes because 10,000 students signed up for virtual learning in the past week.

It says such classes will now start on Sept. 21 for elementary students and Sept. 22 for high schoolers — a week’s delay — so the board can wrangle more staff to account for the 64,000 students who are now learning from home.

The Halton District School Board advised parents Friday that online learning will begin on Wednesday rather than Monday because of “recent and increased demand” for the remote option.

That board says it working through a “significant” waitlist for virtual school and advised people who are currently attending in-person classes to continue doing so, as some virtual classes are full.

Meanwhile on Thursday, the Toronto District School Board announced that while elementary students attending classes in-person will have a staggered start to the school year on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, those doing online learning — and most high school students — will begin on Thursday.

Click here to read Sunday’s COVID-19 coverage.