As efforts continue to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Canada, where the number of reported cases has surpassed 90,000, a cluster of cases in Quebec’s elementary schools is shining a light on the cost of reopening the hardest hit provinces.
At least 41 staff and students tested positive for the novel coronavirus in the first two weeks after elementary schools outside the Montreal area reopened, the province’s education department says.
“It’s normal that by having the daycare, the school being open to the community, there can be cases,” said Dr. Horacio Arruda, the province’s director of public health.
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“The advantage in those areas is that they’re young children, and we didn’t put any personnel who was high-risk (in the classroom).”
The numbers came from a survey of school boards conducted May 25, which found that 19 students and 22 staff members were infected. Twelve of the province’s 72 school boards did not offer up data.
News of the outbreaks came as Quebec reported another 530 cases of the virus on Friday, pushing its total above the 50,000 mark. With 419 more cases on Saturday, the total climbed to 50,651.
Ontario reported another 323 cases on Saturday, for a total of 27,533 cases and 2,297 deaths.
As the case count surged by 344 with 2,230 deaths on Friday, Premier Doug Ford said he was looking at reopening the province region by region. Two-thirds of the province’s cases are in the Greater Toronto Area, while some other public health agencies say they have few or no current patients.
The province is set to reopen drive-in theatres and batting cages on Sunday. It will reintroduce backcountry camping as of Monday, the government said in a news release Saturday.
New Brunswick, which didn’t report any new cases of the virus for the two weeks leading up to May 21, continued to grapple with a new outbreak of eight cases in the Campbellton area. Two of those infected are in intensive care, said Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health.
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As of 11:00 a.m. ET Saturday, Canada had 90,161 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases, with 47,903 of them considered recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial data, regional information and CBC’s reporting stood at 7,123.
Russell said over the next four to five days, teams will be doing “a lot” of testing.
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Russell urged people to be patient and understanding as public health officials work to trace contacts and complete tests. The Campbellton region has been pushed back a level in terms of reopening, which has meant some businesses that were getting ready to open their doors will now wait at least another week.
Statistics Canada, meanwhile, has announced that gross domestic product fell at an annualized rate of 8.2 per cent in the first three months of 2020 — the worst quarterly showing since 2009 — even though efforts to contain the novel coronavirus by shuttering businesses and schools didn’t begin in earnest until March.
Many of those businesses are now reopening in a bid to re-employ some of the three million people who lost their jobs, putting workers and clients in close proximity and lending new urgency to the testing and tracing process.
Here’s what’s happening in the provinces and territories
British Columbia this week has had the lowest number of deaths and new cases since a public health emergency was declared on March 18. In the past seven days, there has been a total of 56 new cases, including four announced on Friday. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.
Alberta has ordered 20 million non-medical masks and plans to distribute them to residents, offering up to four masks per person at no cost. McDonald’s, Tim Hortons and A&W restaurants have partnered with the province to distribute the masks at drive-thrus. The province reported 24 new cases of coronavirus Friday, but no new deaths. There are 616 active cases in province, with 55 people in hospital, four of them in intensive care. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.
Saskatchewan reported two more coronavirus cases on Friday, one in the south and one in the Saskatoon area. The province has 61 active cases. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.
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Manitoba reported no new cases on Friday after confirming that two new cases on Thursday were related to out-of-province travel. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he’s considering a regional phased approach to reopening the province, an approach he had previously resisted. Ford said that the province’s expanded testing guidelines, released Friday morning, will help public health officials better understand trends and hot spots. The new strategy will focus on communities with relatively high numbers of cases and certain high-risk workplaces while also boosting Ontario’s contact-tracing work. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.
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Quebec added 419 new cases and 79 deaths for a provincial total of 50,651 cases and 4,439 deaths on Saturday. The province surpassed 50,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Friday. It has had nearly 60 per cent of all confirmed cases in Canada. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.
In New Brunswick, Premier Blaine Higgs is hoping any reopening of the border with Maine will be delayed. Higgs raised his concerns on a federal call Thursday night, where he and other premiers learned the border might be reopened soon for people in communities next to them. Higgs said the reopening for border friends and families could come in the next few weeks or even days. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.
Nova Scotia reported one new case on Saturday, bringing its case total to 1,056, with 978 considered resolved. One additional fatality related to COVID-19 was also reported, for a total of 60 deaths. Read more about what’s happening in N.S.
In Prince Edward Island, Health Minister James Aylward said more than 1,100 surgeries have been delayed because of COVID-19. The surgeries, which included almost 500 eye surgeries, were all postponed during the 10-week period in which elective surgeries were put on hold. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I., which again reported no new cases on Friday.
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Newfoundland and Labrador will allow people to expand their household bubbles, officials said Friday. The government first allowed for bubbles of two households on April 30. Now households can expand their bubbles by up to six more people. New members of a bubble do not have to be from the same household, but cannot be changed once decided. The province, which announced a new COVID-19 case related to travel on Thursday, had no new cases on Friday. Read more about what’s happening in N.L.
Yukon health officials say the territory is on track to allow people in July to travel freely between the territory and neighbouring B.C. That means anybody arriving in Yukon from B.C. would no longer need to self-isolate for 14 days. Read more about what’s happening across the North.
Here’s what’s happening around the world
WATCH | Italians nervous as regional borders reopen:
Many Italians are concerned about the potential for more COVID-19 spread as the country reopens its borders to free travel and people start returning to workplaces. 1:58
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