KEY FACTS

5:57 a.m. Fraser Mustard Early Learning Academy closed to students and staff until Dec. 14.

5:44 a.m.: Ontario’s auditor general is set to release her annual report Monday

5:42 a.m.: Tighter public health restrictions come into effect in three Ontario regions Monday

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

9:20 a.m. Premier Doug Ford is expected to make an announcement about Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine plans this afternoon.

Ford will be holding a news conference with General Rick Hillier, chair of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force.

They will be joined by Health Minister Christine Elliott and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones at Queen’s Park.

Elliott has said Ontario will receive 1.6 million doses of the new vaccine from Pfizer and 800,000 doses from Moderna in early 2021.

8:40 a.m. Knowing that she’ll be spending Christmas alone, Sjoukje van Beek, a graduate student at the University of Victoria, recently tried to make her studio apartment feel a bit more homey. She went to the thrift store, picked up one four-dollar and one six-dollar Christmas tree, plus some festive garland.

Normally, van Beek, 25, would be on a plane heading home to Waterloo, Ont., to enjoy the company of family and indulge in her mother’s Feast of the Seven Fishes cooking wizardry. But not this year.

“I think I’m just sad. It’s a stressful time of year, in terms of exams. I’m excited to be done with that. But it’s … sorry I’m going to start crying …”

She pauses to explain that her online classes at least afforded her a bit of human connection. Now, those have ended for the term.

Read the full story from the Star’s Alex McKeen and Douglas Quan

8:33 a.m. Jan Willis found herself in Puerto Vallarta when COVID-19 was declared a worldwide pandemic in March. Before she could return to her native British Columbia, the 66-year-old was met with a flurry of cruise passengers, most of them sick with the virus.

“I’m fairly certain that’s where I caught it,” Willis said.

When she returned to her hometown of Victoria, her doctor told her to self-isolate immediately. Early on in the pandemic, there was no widespread testing and Willis was declared a presumptive case of COVID-19.

Alongside physical symptoms, including lung issues, body pains and diarrhea, Willis also experienced psychiatric symptoms. The most severe, she said, was a hallucination she had of a cloud hanging above her a few weeks after her diagnosis, which then proceeded to enter her, causing a wave of sadness.

Read the full story from the Star’s Nadine Yousif

7:51 a.m. For a fleeting moment this summer, Kassandra Grainger lived indoors.

She packed her things from Toronto’s Moss Park, and followed a path encouraged by city officials — accepting a space in a nearby hotel it was using as a shelter.

Grainger said she’d been homeless since leaving an unhealthy relationship. Before coming to the park, she’d worried about sleeping places with enough visibility to be safe, noting that being in public places is an important consideration for homeless women living outside.

“Anywhere where there’s a gathering, somewhere where other people can see me. That way, if something’s being done wrong to me, then hopefully somebody would’ve been able to help,” she said. “We have to, because we’re the vulnerable ones. We’re taken advantage of more than a man.”

Read the full story from Victoria Gibson

6:55 a.m.: Chinese vaccine company Sinovac announced Monday that it is planning to complete a new facility to double its annual vaccine production capacity to 600 million doses by the end of the year, while also securing a $500 million investment in a boost to its COVID-19 vaccine development efforts.

The company is currently conducting the last stage of clinical trials for its vaccine candidate in Brazil, Turkey and Indonesia and is among the frontrunners of China’ s vaccine efforts. China has at least five COVID-19 vaccine candidates running late stage clinical trials across more than a dozen countries.

Sino Biopharmaceutical Ltd., a pharmaceutical conglomerate, bought a 15% stake in Sinovac for an investment of $500 million. The funds will allow the company to “improve our vaccine sales capabilities, expand in Asia markets, develop and access new technologies, and most importantly, accelerate our efforts to help combat the global pandemic,” Sinovac CEO Yin Weidong said in a statement.

On Sunday, 1.2 million doses of its experimental vaccine arrived in Indonesia and are expected to be approved for use soon.

5:57 a.m.: Toronto District School Board announced on Sunday that Fraser Mustard Early Learning Academy, located in the Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood, will be closed for students and staff until Dec. 14.

The early learning academy, which has around 650 students divided into 23 kindergarten classes as well as a daycare centre, was closed on the advice of Toronto Public Health to allow them “time to finish investigating and conducting additional COVID-19 testing,” a TDSB tweet read.

This makes Fraser Mustard the second TDSB school currently closed due to students testing positive for COVID-19. The school has seven confirmed cases among students, with one case resolved, according to the TDSB dashboard.

This closure comes soon after Thorncliffe Park Public School, an adjoining TDSB primary school, which was the first site of the province’s voluntary mass asymptomatic testing program, also closed due to climbing number of cases among staff and students.

In Woodbridge, Father Bressini Catholic High School in the York Catholic District School Board has suspended in-person classes for two weeks, until Dec. 18.

Read Akrit Michael’s full report.

5:44 a.m.: Ontario’s auditor general is set to release her annual report Monday.

Bonnie Lysyk’s report will detail 13 value-for-money audits and one review.

Among them is an audit of virtual patient care in Ontario, which her office notes has ramped up in recent years — especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lysyk assessed the accessibility, equitability and cost-effectiveness of Ontario’s virtual care options.

She’s also set to weigh in on the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, assessing whether it regulates sectors such as the province’s horse-racing industry and cannabis retail stores in line with legislative rules.

The annual update comes less than two weeks after Lysyk released a special report into the province’s pandemic response, which found that it was slower and more reactive than that of other provinces.

The governing Tories took issue with many parts of the report, with Premier Doug Ford dismissing it as “21 pages of inaccuracies” while accusing Lysyk of overstepping her authority.

“Stick with looking for value for money, stick with the job that we hired you for,” he said.

5:43 a.m.: British Columbia politicians return to the legislature today for a brief session after the October election that gave the New Democrat’s a majority government.

Premier John Horgan says they’ll use the session to make good on an election promise to provide one-time, tax-free payments of $1,000 to eligible families and $500 to individuals to help people get through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Horgan says he expects the session, which will start with a throne speech, will last about two weeks.

The premier says the pandemic recovery payments will stimulate spending and help the B.C. economy.

Interim Liberal Leader Shirley Bond says her Opposition members will push the New Democrats to address troubles beyond the pandemic recovery fund, especially on the issue of the province’s finances.

Horgan’s New Democrats won 57 of the 87 seats in the legislature, while the Liberals lost more than a dozen seats, prompting Andrew Wilkinson to resign as leader.

5:42 a.m.: Tighter public health restrictions come into effect in three Ontario regions today in a bid to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Middlesex-London and Thunder Bay will move into the “orange” zone of the province’s colour-coded, tiered pandemic response plan.

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit moves to the “yellow” category.

The change to orange includes restrictions on visitors to long-term care homes and beefed up testing in the facilities.

The change to yellow includes limiting events and social gatherings to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors, while organized public events are limited to 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors.

The measures will remain in place for at least 28 days.

5:41 a.m.: One Atlantic province is introducing aggressive new public health rules today, as another loosens its COVID-19 restrictions.

Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King announced yesterday that the province would enter a two-week “circuit-breaker” lockdown today.

The move is an effort to curb community spread of the novel coronavirus, as King says contact tracing has been difficult.

New Brunswick, meanwhile, is lifting restrictions in Moncton and Fredericton thanks to a declining COVID-19 caseload.

The two areas will return to the less restrictive “yellow” level of precautions.

But officials in New Brunswick are reminding residents that the situation in other provinces remains grim, so it’s not yet safe to let loose.

5:40 a.m.: Are you feeling tired and weary dealing with the same problems every day? You likely wake up thinking about COVID-19. Then you crawl out of bed and view the numbers on TV. Next, you gauge how you’ll cope for the next 24 hours.

You know you have coronavirus burnout. You need some changes, but what can you do differently?

In order to cope, while we’re all waiting to turn the corner, try focusing on the vaccine that’s coming. It’s the first real hope we’ve had in months. Then, get busy making some small changes in your life.

“The pandemic is causing something akin to boredom on steroids,” says a psychologist we’ll call Thomas.

Thomas goes on to explain it this way: “Eating chocolate pie over and over will make you sick. People need variety in their lives.”

To pull yourself out of burnout mode, try these changes:

— Keep a notebook of nice things to do for yourself. The list might include something as simple as going for a hike or driving in the country for a couple of hours. List affordable, achievable activities or rituals (such as calling old friends) you’ve neglected to do. Again, strive for variety.

— Improve your environment. We all grow tired of our home decor, furniture, and yard landscaping. Do something simple such as painting some furniture, cleaning out your closets, or buying a gas firepit for your patio.

— Make a contribution to a non-profit in your community. Volunteer to pack boxes of food for a food bank or design a webpage to help families connect with free medical care. Invest your time in something larger than yourself at least once a week.

— Learn something you’ve neglected to pursue in the past. For example, pull out that guitar you bought years ago and learn some chords. Or, ask your daughter to teach you how to use technology to set up a group chat with your friends.

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Working harder and harder will not fix burnout. This just creates a feeling of spinning your wheels.

5:39 a.m.: As the coronavirus epidemic worsens, U.S. health experts hope Joe Biden’s administration will put in place something Donald Trump’s has not — a comprehensive national testing strategy.

Such a strategy, they say, could systematically check more people for infections and spot surges before they take off. The health experts say it would be an improvement from the current practice, which has professional athletes and students at elite universities getting routine tests while many other Americans stand in line for hours — if they get tested at all.

“We have had no strategy for this virus. Our strategy has been no strategy,” said Dr. Michael Mina, a Harvard University researcher focused on use of testing to track disease.

Some experts say the lack of such a system is one reason for the current national explosion in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

“If we’d had a more robust approach and testing was scaled up as one of the tools, I think much of this third surge would have been avoidable,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

There are differing opinions on what such a strategy should look like, but many experts say rapid and at-home tests should be used so Americans can check themselves and stay away from others if they test positive.

The president-elect has endorsed that strategy, called for making testing free for all Americans, and said government experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies should be empowered to co-ordinate the entire effort.

“The reality is we’re not testing enough today,” Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, co-chair of Biden’s coronavirus advisory board, told The Associated Press this week.

His transition team so far has not gone into further detail.

5:37 a.m.: South Korea’s health minister said Monday that the Seoul metropolitan area is now a “COVID-19 war zone,” as the country reported another 615 new infections and the virus appeared to be spreading faster.

The country has recorded more than 5,300 new infections in the past 10 days and Monday was the 30th day in a row of triple-digit daily jumps.

Most of the new infections were detected in the Seoul metropolitan area where health workers are struggling to stem transmissions tied to various places, including restaurants, schools, hospitals and long-term care facilities.

“The capital area is now a COVID-19 war zone,” Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said in a virus meeting, pleading for citizen vigilance.

He said the country may have to further increase social distancing to prevent the resurgence in the capital area from “exploding into a major outbreak nationwide and collapsing the health-care system.”

While South Korea managed to contain a major outbreak in its southeastern region in spring by channelling nationwide health resources and personnel, it’s less clear where the reinforcements will come if the virus wreaks havoc in the densely-populated capital area, where half of the country’s 51 million people live.

While President Moon Jae-in’s government had been eager to tout the country’s previous gains against the virus, there’s criticism that it gambled on its own success by moving quickly to ease social distancing restrictions to the lowest level in October even as the virus was still spreading.

5:36 a.m.: It’s back to school again for some New York City schoolchildren, weeks after the schools were closed to in-person learning because of rising COVID-19 infections.

The city’s public school system, which shut down in-person learning earlier this month, will bring back on Monday preschool students and children in kindergarten through fifth grade whose parents chose a mix of in-school and remote learning. Special education students in all grades who have particularly complex needs will be welcomed back starting Thursday.

Middle school and high school will remain all remote at least until after the holiday break, Mayor Bill de Blasio has said.

De Blasio announced Nov. 18 that public school buildings would close because the city had crossed a threshold set earlier of 3 per cent of all the coronavirus tests performed over a seven-day period coming back positive.

The rate of positive COVID-19 tests is now over 5 per cent, according to the city’s figures, but de Blasio has said it’s safe to reopen schools with beefed-up testing protocols — in part because few infections have been linked to the schools.

“We have facts now for two straight months of extraordinarily low levels of transmission in our schools, our schools are clearly safer,” de Blasio said on WNYC radio on Friday. “This is what our health care leaders say. Our schools are safer than pretty much any place else in New York City. So, I really think everyone in the school community can feel secure because so many measures are in place to protect everyone.”

5:34 a.m.: President Donald Trump says his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani has tested positive for the coronavirus, making him the latest in Trump’s inner circle to contract the disease that is now surging across the U.S.

Giuliani was exhibiting some symptoms and was admitted Sunday to Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to speak publicly.

The 76-year-old former New York mayor has travelled extensively to battleground states in an effort to help Trump subvert his election loss. On numerous occasions he has met with officials for hours at a time without wearing a mask.

Trump, who announced Giuliani’s positive test in a Sunday afternoon tweet, wished him a speedy recovery.

“Get better soon Rudy, we will carry on!!!” Trump wrote.

Giuliani did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but on Sunday evening he retweeted Trump’s announcement of his diagnosis. He also tweeted thanks to a conservative writer who had said he was praying for Giuliani.

Giuliani attended a hearing at the Georgia Capitol on Thursday where he went without a mask for several hours. Several state senators, all Republicans, also did not wear masks at the hearing.

Monday 5:32 a.m.: President-elect Joe Biden has picked California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be his health secretary, putting a defender of the Affordable Care Act in a leading role to oversee his administration’s coronavirus response.

Separately, Biden picked a Harvard infectious disease expert, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If confirmed by the Senate, Becerra, 62, will be the first Latino to head the Department of Health and Human Services, a $1-trillion-plus agency with 80,000 employees and a portfolio that includes drugs and vaccines, leading-edge medical research and health insurance programs covering more than 130 million Americans.

Biden’s selection of Becerra was confirmed Sunday by two people familiar with the decision, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement anticipated Tuesday.

Two people also anonymously confirmed the choice of Walensky. The post of CDC director does not require Senate confirmation.

Becerra, as the state of California’s top lawyer, has led the coalition of Democratic states defending “Obamacare” from the Trump administration’s latest effort to overturn it, a legal case awaiting a Supreme Court decision next year.

A former senior House Democrat, Becerra was involved in steering the Obama health law through Congress in 2009 and 2010. At the time he would tell reporters that one of his primary motivations was having tens of thousands of uninsured people in his Southern California district.

Becerra has a lawyer’s precise approach to analyzing problems and a calm demeanour.

But overseeing the coronavirus response will be the most complicated task he has ever contemplated. By next year, the U.S. will be engaged in a mass vaccination campaign, the groundwork for which has been laid under the Trump administration. Although the vaccines appear very promising, and no effort has been spared to plan for their distribution, it’s impossible to tell yet how well things will go when it’s time to get shots in the arms of millions of Americans.

Becerra won’t be going it alone. Biden, who is expected to announce key health care picks as early as Tuesday, is taking a team approach to his administration’s virus response.

Businessman Jeff Zients is expected to be named as Biden’s White House coronavirus co-ordinator. An economic adviser to former President Barack Obama, Zients also led the rescue of the HealthCare.gov website after its disastrous launch in 2013. And former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a co-chair of Biden’s coronavirus task force, is expected to return in a new role akin to the top medical adviser.

But the core components of HHS are the boots on the ground of the government’s coronavirus response. The Food and Drug Administration oversees vaccines and treatments, while much of the underlying scientific and medical research comes from NIH. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention takes the lead in detecting and containing the spread of diseases. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services provides insurance coverage for more than 1 in 3 Americans, including vulnerable seniors, as well as many children and low-income people.

Read Sunday’s coronavirus file.



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