2:30 p.m.: Jays aren’t guaranteed exemption to play regular season in Toronto
1:55 p.m.: Province sends teams to Essex County to help migrant farm workers.
8:25 a.m.: Wasaga Beach to close main beach area after huge crowds.
The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Friday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
6 p.m. Ontario’s regional health units are reporting 37,558 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, including 2,731 deaths, up a total of 164 new cases since Thursday evening, according to the Star’s latest count.
As has been the case in recent weeks, the vast majority of new cases were reported in a small handful of health units. Just Toronto (80 new cases), Peel Region (21 cases) and York Region (20 cases) reported increases in the double digits; of the remaining 31 units, just Windsor-Essex saw more than five new infections.
Meanwhile, three more fatal cases were reported Friday, two in Toronto, one in the Southwestern region. The daily rate of deaths has also fallen sharply since peaking in early May when the health units reported as many as 94 deaths in a single day.
Earlier Friday, the province reported 155 patients are hospitalized with COVID-19, including 40, who are in an intensive care unit, of whom 25 are on a ventilator. These numbers are all near the lowest levels in data that goes back to early April.
The province says its data is accurate to 4 p.m. the previous day. The province also cautions its latest count of total deaths, 2,682, may be incomplete or out of date due to delays in the reporting system. In the event of a discrepancy, “data reported by (the health units) should be considered the most up to date.”
The Star’s count includes some patients reported as “probable” COVID-19 cases. This means they have symptoms and contacts or travel history that indicate they very likely have the disease, but have not yet received a positive lab test.
3:43 p.m. There are 105,027 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada, according to The Canadian Press, including 8,663 deaths, and 68,658 cases resolved.
This breaks down as follows (NOTE: The Star does its own count for Ontario; see this file.):
Quebec: 55,682 confirmed (including 5,560 deaths, 25,158 resolved)Ontario: 35,535 confirmed (including 2,682 deaths, 30,909 resolved)Alberta: 8,202 confirmed (including 155 deaths, 7,505 resolved)British Columbia: 2,940 confirmed (including 177 deaths, 2,603 resolved)Nova Scotia: 1,064 confirmed (including 63 deaths, 998 resolved)Saskatchewan: 796 confirmed (including 14 deaths, 711 resolved)Manitoba: 314 confirmed (including seven deaths, 302 resolved), and 11 presumptive casesNewfoundland and Labrador: 261 confirmed (including three deaths, 258 resolved)New Brunswick: 165 confirmed (including two deaths, 158 resolved)Prince Edward Island: 27 confirmedRepatriated Canadians account for 13 confirmed cases, all of which have been resolvedYukon: 11 confirmed, all of which have been resolvedNorthwest Territories: five confirmed, all of which have been resolvedNunavut reports one case presumed to be COVID-19.
3:08 p.m.: Soon after the four Atlantic provinces lifted travel restrictions within the region early Friday, heavy cross-border traffic was reported across the Maritimes.
Residents of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island can now travel to any of the other three provinces without self-isolating for 14 days after arriving — a change that has created a so-called Atlantic bubble.
Video footage from the Confederation Bridge showed a steady stream of vehicles heading to P.E.I. after midnight when the restrictions were lifted.
2:55 p.m.: A new report on the COVID-19 crisis in long-term care homes has concluded that Canada failed in its duty to protect its elders.
The report released today by the Royal Society of Canada found the pandemic was a “shock wave” that exposed many long-standing deficiencies in the system.
The group’s COVID-19 task force of scientists and researchers said the causes of the failure are complex but are rooted in what they call systemic and deeply institutionalized attitudes about age and gender.
2:45 p.m.: The mayor of Ottawa says he’s working to make cloth masks mandatory indoors in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 while restarting the economy.
Jim Watson says he and a councillor will bring forward a motion on July 15 to create a bylaw mandating the use of masks in indoor public spaces.
He says the move will help protect the community from increased transmission of the novel coronavirus while also giving businesses the chance to reopen.
Watson’s announcement comes after several other Ontario cities made similar moves, including Toronto and Windsor.
Toronto’s bylaw was passed last week and comes into effect on July 7.
Premier Doug Ford has resisted calls to make masks mandatory across the province, saying a regional approach is best given the relatively low infection rate in some parts of Ontario.
2:30 p.m.: A top Canadian government health official says the Toronto Blue Jays aren’t guaranteed to get an exemption for the regular season.
The Blue Jays got clearance to hold training camp in Toronto starting this week. But the regular season will require players to frequently travel back and forth between the United States.
“That’s a totally different ballgame,” Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s Deputy Chief Public Health Officer, said Friday.
Njoo said it’s too early to say if an exemption will be granted, but said health officials will examine a plan. He noted a lot of American states that have teams are seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases.
“We have to look at it very carefully,” Njoo said. “Our priority is to safeguard the health and safety of all Canadians.”
Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro said the team hopes to know within 10 days where it will play regular-season games.
MLB requires an exemption to a requirement that anyone entering Canada for nonessential reasons must self-isolate for 14 days. The U.S.-Canada border remains closed to nonessential travel until at least July 21. There is wide expectation that will be extended.
Public Health Agency of Canada spokeswoman Marie-Pier Burelle said the Blue Jays were granted exemption for training camp in Toronto on “national interest grounds.”
The Blue Jays are moving their camp from its spring training complex in Dunedin, Florida, where players reported for intake testing. The team will create a quarantine environment at Rogers Centre and the adjoining Toronto Marriott City Centre Hotel, which overlooks the field.
The Blue Jays will use four locker rooms and employ social distancing during training camp. They will not play exhibition games with other teams during training camp. Precautions at the hotel include contact-less check-ins and discouraging the use of elevators.
Njoo called the training camp plan “minimal risk.”
Shapiro said visiting teams would not leave the confines of Rogers Centre and the hotel attached to the stadium if the regular season plan is approved. Players’ union spokesman Chris Dahl said the association had not yet signed off on the plan.
COVID-19 cases are surging in Florida as health officials reported a new single-day record total of 10,000 new cases in a day recently, and before this week several Blue Jay players and staff in Dunedin had tested positive. Ontario reported 165 new cases Friday.
Shapiro said the players prefer to be in Toronto.
2:30 p.m.: With an increasing number of Nova Scotians complaining on social media about seeing cars with American plates entering the province, Premier Stephen McNeil has pledged to keep a closer watch on those showing up at the border from outside Atlantic Canada.
However, McNeil also warned Nova Scotians not to jump to conclusions about the people in those cars, saying most of them are probably Canadian citizens coming home after living or working abroad.
“There are lots of stories circulating, conversation on social media about Americans and others who are coming into our province and not self-isolating,” the premier told a virtual news conference.
“If this is true, this is not acceptable. If you commit to self-isolating for 14 days, we expect you to keep your word.”
2:25 p.m.: The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario says it plans to revoke the liquor licence of a Toronto club accused of hosting a secret indoor party attended by up to 150 people.
The AGCO says it has suspended Goldie’s licence while it begins the revocation process.
It says the move is related to “serious violations related to public safety.”
Earlier this week, police alleged that between 125 and 150 patrons were allowed to enter the club on June 26 for a party where no social distancing regulations were enforced.
Police said the owner, manager and corporation will be charged with failure to comply with an order made during a declared emergency.
Investigators noted the establishment doesn’t have outdoor seating or a patio of any sort.
Bars and restaurants are currently only allowed to serve customers in outdoor settings in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.
1:55 p.m.: Emergency Management Ontario teams have been dispatched to Essex County to help local officials house, feed and arrange medical care for almost 200 workers who tested positive for COVID-19 at an industrial greenhouse that was effectively shut down by the outbreak.
“It’s all hands on deck down there,” Premier Doug Ford said Friday.
The teams are aiding the Red Cross and staff from the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit as they try to contain the outbreak at the massive Leamington greenhouse operation that grows tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.
The Star’s Rob Ferguson has the full story.
1:25 p.m.: Premier Doug Ford apologizes for saying farm workers in Windsor-Essex hid from COVID-19 testing, saying he received “misinformation” on Thursday. Here’s that earlier story.
12 p.m.: Windsor’s medical officer of health is defending his decision to order a work stoppage at a local greenhouse with a COVID-19 outbreak after farmers and Ontario’s premier said the move will make growers less likely to co-operate with testing efforts.
Dr. Wajid Ahmed said Friday that he issued the public health order after 191 workers at an unidentified greenhouse in the Windsor-Essex region tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend.
Ahmed said he may issue additional orders if there is further risk to workers on local farms.
“The evidence in this particular farm pointed to the fact that there is an ongoing risk,” he said. “And that risk needs to be mitigated and controlled to protect the workers . . . and it may happen again, if there is any risk, and I don’t think that anyone would disagree.”
12 p.m.: The province announced Friday that Canadian Forces personnel who were deployed to some of Ontario’s hardest-hit long-term care homes are leaving the facilities.
The soldiers were deployed to the homes in April after the province requested their help from the federal government.
A report from the soldiers in May highlighted shocking conditions in some of the homes, with allegations such as rooming COVID-19 positive patients with uninfected ones, insect infestations and aggressive resident feeding that led to choking.
Ford praised the work of the Canadian Forces members in the seven long-term care homes.
“From providing relief to our frontline workers, to taking care of our loved ones in long-term care homes, they have been there for their fellow Canadians when we needed them most,” he said in a statement.
The government said inspections at all of the military-supported homes have been completed and provincial inspectors remain on site.
11:55 a.m.: Quebec is announcing 19 new deaths due to COVID-19, including seven that occurred in the last 24 hours.
The other 12 deaths occurred before June 25, bringing the province’s total to 5,560. There were also 89 new cases reported, for a total of 55,682.
Hospitalizations dropped below 400 with a decline of 19 people from the 411 reported Thursday. Of those, 31 are in intensive care.
Health authorities completed 8,662 tests on July 1, which remains well below the province’s stated goal of 14,000 tests per day.
11 a.m.: When COVID-19 hit, Paintbox Bistro, a restaurant located in Regent Park, quickly transformed into a store. Why? The goal was to keep her staff employed and continue providing a resource to feed lower-income residents.
The Star’s Karon Liu has the full story.
10:20 a.m. (updated): Youth Minister Bardish Chagger says the WE organization won’t manage the federal government’s $900-million program to pay students and fresh graduates for volunteer work this summer.
In a statement this morning, Chagger says it’s a “mutually agreed upon decision.”
Since the charity founded by brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger was announced as the manager of the program last week, the sole-sourced deal has been criticized because of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s close relationship with the group.
Trudeau and Chagger have said repeatedly that the recommendation to use WE for the work came from the public service, not politicians.
10 a.m.: All those warnings from small cottage country mayors to stay away this spring haven’t discouraged Torontonians from hunting for vacation homes, realtors say. In fact, the pandemic is boosting those real estate numbers.
Read the full story from the Star’s Tess Kalinowski.
9 a.m.: Outdoor patios at restaurants and bars have been given the green light to grow, allowing more people to dine or have a drink in the open air as summer gets into full swing.
Premier Doug Ford said the government has amended emergency orders to cut red tape and allow municipalities to quickly pass temporary bylaws clearing the way during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The measure follows consultations with chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams and a push from Progressive Conservative MPP Gila Martow (Thornhill), who proposed the idea in May to help restaurants and bars struggling to stay afloat selling take-away food, beer, wine and spirits.
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Read the full story from the Star’s Rob Ferguson.
8:25 a.m.: The public’s “blatant disregard” for the rules of social distancing has resulted in Wasaga Beach laying out a plan to shut down the majority of the main beach area by July 9.
The only access permitted would be three walkways to reach the water, and so the public can access businesses along what was Beach Drive.
Anyone who chooses to flout the new rules by walking on the municipal portion of the beach will also face a hefty fine: $750.
The town’s emergency management co-ordinator and deputy fire chief, Craig Williams, called the disregard for social distancing and gathering recommendations on Canada Day, and the previous two weekends, “human behaviour at its worst.”
The beach area would be closed to the public by July 9 and “for the foreseeable future.”
The municipal lots would be reduced in capacity by half.
Mayor Nina Bifolchi said while the previous two weekends on the beach had been busy, the crowds on Canada Day “took it to a whole new level.”
7:18 a.m. The scale of coronavirus infections in English care homes was laid bare on Friday, adding to the pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson over his handling of the pandemic.
A survey of more than 9,000 institutions found that 56 per cent had at least one confirmed case of COVID-19 since the outbreak began, according to the Office for National Statistics. In total, 11 per cent of all care-home residents tested positive for the disease, almost double the rate in the community as a whole.
The government has come under fire for its failure to shield vulnerable people in care homes, with the ONS now estimating that over 19,000 residents in England and Wales died from the virus as of June 12. In the initial stages of the outbreak, some hospitalized residents were discharged into the facilities without a negative test to show they weren’t carrying the disease.
Speaking on LBC Radio on Friday, Johnson described the significant loss of life in care homes as “absolutely tragic” and promised a “proper examination.”
“Far too many lives were lost in care homes and we mourn for everyone,” he said. “I bitterly, bitterly regret every single loss of life that we’ve had. Whether an earlier lockdown would have made the crucial difference is something we will have to look at.”
Staff working arrangements also influenced levels of infection. Those that employed more workers from agencies, or had staff working across multiple sites, showed a greater spread of the virus. There was also evidence that care homes that provide sick pay had lower levels of infection, as staff were more likely to take time off work.
7 a.m.: The pandemic has dinged the auto sector, but one part of the industry is faring better than it was before the crisis: used cars.
Sales of used vehicles in the U.S. have roared back after dropping 38 per cent in April, when states were shut down and some dealerships were forced to close. In June, used-vehicle sales rose 17 per cent above the pre-pandemic forecasts, according to research firm J.D. Power.
A confluence of factors is drawing buyers to the used-car lot. Some have used federal stimulus checks on their purchases, dealers and analysts say. Interest rates have fallen during the pandemic, to about 4.73 per cent on average for a 36-month used-car loan, from about 5 per cent in early March, according to Bankrate.com.
Meanwhile, many dealers are having trouble getting new vehicles from the factory, after the health crisis forced auto makers to close their plants for nearly two months this spring. That has led salespeople to more readily redirect customers to the used-car lot, dealers say.
The used-vehicle market’s swift recovery is a relief for dealers and auto makers, which have seen other areas of their businesses upended by the pandemic.
6:10 a.m. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un urged officials to maintain alertness against the coronavirus, warning that complacency risked “unimaginable and irretrievable crisis,” state media said Friday.
Despite the warning, Kim reaffirmed North Korea’s claim to not have had a single case of COVID-19, telling a ruling party meeting Thursday that the country has “thoroughly prevented the inroad of the malignant virus” despite the worldwide health crisis.
Outsiders widely doubt North Korea escaped the pandemic entirely, given its poor health infrastructure and close trade and travel ties to China, where COVID-19 emerged late last year.
Describing its anti-virus efforts as a “matter of national existence,” North Korea earlier this year shut down nearly all cross-border traffic, banned tourists and mobilized health workers to quarantine anyone with similar symptoms to the disease.
Experts say the country’s self-imposed lockdown is hurting an economy already battered by stringent U.S.-led sanctions over its nuclear weapons and missile program.
The Korean Central News Agency said Kim during the politburo meeting of the Workers’ Party “stressed the need to maintain maximum alert without a slight self-complacence or relaxation” as the virus continues to spread in neighbouring countries.
The agency said Kim sharply criticized inattentiveness among officials and violations of emergency anti-virus rules and warned that a “hasty relief of anti-epidemic measures will result in unimaginable and irretrievable crisis.”
The North’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper published several photos of Kim at the meeting, which were the first state media images of him in weeks. Neither Kim nor the ruling party officials who participated were wearing masks.
5:01 a.m.: Toronto’s northwest corner — which has been hardest hit by COVID-19 — is part of a larger hot spot of vulnerability that extends beyond the edges of the city, suggesting a broader regional cluster of high infection rates that defies boundaries and is exploiting socioeconomic inequalities, according to experts and public health data.
Officials are still trying to puzzle out why Toronto’s northwest corner has seen the city’s highest infection rates, and who, exactly, has been impacted most.
Recent reporting from the Star found that these neighbourhoods have some of the highest concentrations of residents who are low-income, racialized and living in cramped housing while working in higher-risk sectors like manufacturing. These findings were echoed Thursday by newly released data from Toronto Public Health showing that neighbourhoods with these characteristics were correlated with higher case counts.
Read more of the Star’s reporting here.
5 a.m.: The four Atlantic provinces are lifting travel restrictions within the region today, with an agreement that’s causing a mix of anxiety and excitement among people in the region.
Residents of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island can now travel to any of the other three provinces without self-isolating for 14 days after arriving.
The premiers of Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick have hinted restrictions could soon be lifted for visitors from the rest of Canada if all goes well.
Some residents have criticized the so-called “Atlantic bubble” over fears the novel coronavirus could re-emerge in the region, but health officials are encouraging people to trust the science behind the decision and keep following health measures.
Read more of the Star’s reporting here
4:16 a.m.: South Africa’s reported coronavirus cases are surging.
Its hospitals are now bracing for an onslaught of patients, setting up temporary wards and hoping advances in treatment will help the country’s health facilities from becoming overwhelmed.
The spike comes as the country has allowed businesses to reopen in recent weeks to stave off economic disaster after a strict two-month stay-at-home order worsened already high unemployment and drastically increased hunger.
In Johannesburg, the largest city, health officials said they are considering reimposing some restrictions to try to slow the spread of the virus.
4 a.m.: A group representing greenhouse growers in Ontario’s Windsor-Essex region says a work stoppage at a local farm due to a COVID-19 outbreak has escalated fears about testing for the virus.
The Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers says in a statement that the public health order has contributed to anxiety among both farmers and workers.
On Wednesday, the region’s medical officer of health issued an order that required an unnamed farmer whose greenhouse has an active outbreak involving 191 workers to isolate those employees and stop work.
The medical officer of health for Windsor-Essex issued the order after a rash of positive tests over the weekend.
The growers group says it is working with the sector and the provincial government to address those fears as on-farm testing continues.
Premier Doug Ford said Thursday the work stoppage will not encourage local farmers to participate in efforts to combat the virus.
6 p.m.: Interest payments were already draining the bottom line at Cirque du Soleil Holdings LP before the pandemic froze its revenues, according to a report by the monitor in its bankruptcy protection case.
Ernst & Young, the firm overseeing Cirque’s restructuring under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act in Canada, said its net loss increased to $80 million last year from $10.2 million in 2017.
“During that period, the applicant’s financial position deteriorated as a result of the losses sustained and the increasingly debt heavy capital structure,” the monitor said in a report.
The pandemic hit the 36-year-old company just as it emerged from a string of acquisitions that helped it diversify from its original acrobat-based shows. The deals, which included Blue Man Productions Inc., help Cirque increase revenue to $1.04 billion last year from $882 million in 2017, but also put it deeper into debt.
As of March 31, Cirque owed its first lien creditors $901 million and its second lien creditors $154 million. It also owed $32 million to shareholder Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec and an equal amount to Fonds de solidarite des travailleurs du Quebec, the monitor’s report said.
Montreal-based Cirque filed for protection from creditors on Monday after the coronavirus forced it to close shows around the world. A creditors’ group has said a proposal by existing shareholders — TPG, the Caisse and China’s Fosun International Ltd. — to restructure the live performance company is “doomed to fail” and there is no chance they will accept it.
The shareholders’ group proposed refinancing the company with new capital and giving creditors a 45% equity stake in exchange for wiping out most of its debt. Now the company will go through a process to see if another investor can improve on that offer.
Cirque had $1.47 billion in liabilities at the end of 2019, about five times shareholders’ equity.
Thursday 5 p.m. Ontario’s regional health units are reporting a total of 37,389 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, including 2,728 deaths, up a total of 154 new cases since Wednesday evening, according to the Star’s latest count.
As has been the case in recent weeks, the vast majority of new cases reported Thursday came in a small handful of health units. Just Toronto (77 new cases), Peel Region (23 cases) and York Region (21 cases) reported increases in the double digits.
New infections are down sharply, even in these regions. In Toronto, for example, the long-term average rate of new infections has fallen from 196 per day in early June to just 53 daily as of Thursday.
Four more fatal cases were reported Thursday, all in Toronto.
The daily rate of deaths has also fallen sharply since peaking in early May when the health units reported as many as 94 deaths in a single day.
Earlier, the province reported the Canada Day holiday meant it had incomplete information on the number of Ontarians currently hospitalized with COVID-19. The most recent totals of patients hospitalized, in the ICU or ventilated in Ontario hospitals were near the lowest levels in records that were first made public in early April.
The province says its data is accurate to 4 p.m. the previous day. The province also cautions its latest count of total deaths, 2,680, may be incomplete or out of date due to delays in the reporting system. In the event of a discrepancy, “data reported by (the health units) should be considered the most up to date.”
The Star’s count includes some patients reported as “probable” COVID-19 cases. This means they have symptoms and contacts or travel history that indicate they very likely have the disease, but have not yet received a positive lab test.
Thursday 2:45 p.m.: More than three million Canadians either lost their jobs or had their hours significantly reduced due to COVID-19, according to Statistics Canada.
And now that economies across the country are reopening, some people are looking to change course, having realized their careers aren’t as viable as they may have been pre-pandemic.
Many are going back to school to pursue an entirely new profession — for example, Ryerson University’s Chang School of Continuing Education saw a 15 per cent jump in its spring enrolment, according to dean Gary Hepburn, even after the school’s in-person courses had to be cancelled.
Read the full story from the Star’s Rosa Saba.
Click here to read more of Thursday’s coverage.