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Canada among nations calling for further, transparent COVID-19 origin probe after WHO report release

Canada, the United States and 12 other countries expressed concerns Tuesday that the released World Health Organization (WHO) report on the origins of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was delayed and lacked access to complete data, according to a joint statement.

The statement was also signed by the governments of Australia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, the Republic of Korea, Slovenia and the United Kingdom.

“Together, we support a transparent and independent analysis and evaluation, free from interference and undue influence, of the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement read. “In this regard, we join in expressing shared concerns regarding the recent WHO-convened study in China, while at the same time reinforcing the importance of working together toward the development and use of a swift, effective, transparent, science-based, and independent process for international evaluations of such outbreaks of unknown origin in the future.”

The statement praises the mission of WHO and called for “further studies of animals to find the means of introduction into humans, and urge momentum for expert-driven phase 2 studies.”

The WHO-led team that spent four weeks in and around Wuhan, China, in January and February released its final report to the public.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, seen in 2020, called a report on the origins of the novel coronavirus a beginning, but he admitted to member states on Tuesday that the team of experts had some difficulty accessing raw data while in China. (Fabrice Coffrini/Reuters)

WHO report called ‘important beginning’

WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement the report was “a very important beginning.”

“Finding the origin of a virus takes time and we owe it to the world to find the source so we can collectively take steps to reduce the risk of this happening again,” Tedros said in his statement. “No single research trip can provide all the answers.”

The joint WHO-China study on the origins of COVID-19 says the virus was probably transmitted from bats to humans through another animal, a finding that became widely known Monday after a draft of the report was obtained by news organizations. The theory was among four that was discussed in detail in the report.

The conclusion that knowledge around virus origins remains incomplete likely means that tensions over how the pandemic started — and whether China has helped or hinder efforts to find out, as the United States has alleged — will continue.

While not mentioning China specifically, Tedros told member states he expected “future collaborative studies to include more timely and comprehensive data sharing.”

Peter Ben Embarek, a member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) team tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), is shown on Feb. 10 in Wuhan, Hubei province in China. (Aly Song/Reuters)

The leader of the four-week WHO mission to China, Peter Ben Embarek, said on Tuesday he was not pressed to remove anything from its final report, though he did admit there was some difficulty in accessing raw data

It is “perfectly possible” COVID-19 cases were circulating in November or October 2019 around Wuhan, Embarek said, potentially leading to the disease spreading abroad earlier than has been documented.

Lab leak considered least likely possibility

The report acknowledges that there is literature suggesting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the coronavirus disease, may have been circulating earlier as indicated by sewage testing in Spain and Italy. But officials at Tuesday’s news conference said the methodology of those studies need more scrutiny.

Dominic Dwyer, a WHO mission expert, said there was “no obvious evidence” that any Wuhan-area labs were involved in the outbreak.

Some members of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration have promoted a lab leak theory, though they have not provided specific evidence to support their supposition.

READ | WHO report on origins of SARS-CoV-2:

Three laboratories in Wuhan working with coronaviruses had “well-managed,” high-quality biosafety levels, and there had been no reports of compatible respiratory illness among staff during the preceding months, the report said.

Nor had they tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus in subsequent blood screening for antibodies, the report said.

The report also discusses evidence — supporting or conflicting — for two other possibilities.

Direct spread from bats to humans was considered as possible, while potential spread through “cold-chain” food products was considered possible but not likely.

White House urges more action from WHO

The White House on Tuesday urged WHO to take additional steps to determine the origins of COVID-19 in its own comment.

“There’s a second stage in this process that we believe should be led by international and independent experts. They should have unfettered access to data. They should be able to ask questions of people who are on the ground at this point in time, and that’s a step the WHO could take,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

WATCH \ WHO last month says it believes lab leak theory unlikely:

Dr. Peter Ben Embarek, a World Health Organization expert who is part of the team investigating the origins of the novel coronavirus, says it is ‘extremely unlikely’ the virus came from a lab in Wuhan, China. 0:36

Earlier Tuesday, more than 20 heads of government and global agencies in a commentary published Tuesday called for an international treaty for pandemic preparedness that they say will protect future generations in the wake of COVID-19.

But there were few details to explain how such an agreement might actually compel countries to act more co-operatively.

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CBC | World News

Raptors to keep calling Tampa home for rest of season

The Toronto Raptors will play all their home games in Tampa, Fla., this season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NBA team said Thursday the team will complete its home schedule at Amalie Arena after initially announcing in November it would play half its home games in Tampa before making a decision on the second half of the season.

The Raptors say the decision was made because of border restrictions and public safety measures in Canada.

The lone NBA team from outside the U.S., the Raptors have joined several Canadian counterparts in having to play south of the border during the pandemic.

Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays (Buffalo, N.Y.) and Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC (East Hartford, Conn.), CF Montreal (Harrison, N.J.) and Vancouver Whitecaps (Portland) relocated for partial or full seasons in 2020. Major League Rugby’s Toronto Arrows will start their 2021 season in Marietta, Ga.

A schedule release for the second half of the season is expected in the coming days.

City of champions

“Florida has been really welcoming to us and we’re so grateful for the hospitality we’ve found in Tampa and at Amalie — we’re living in a city of champions, and we intend to carry on the tradition of winning for our new friends and fans here,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said in a statement.

“But home is where the heart is, and our hearts are in Toronto. We think often of our fans, of our Scotiabank Arena family, and all those we are missing back home, and we can’t wait until we can all be together again.”

The Raptors are 6-5 in their “home” building this season, which they’re sharing with the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa also has the reigning Super Bowl champion Buccaneers and the Rays played in the World Series last season.

There have been reports the Blue Jays are considering playing home games in nearby Dunedin, Fla., site of their spring-training complex, this season.

Logistical issue

The Raptors’ decision is hardly unexpected given the state of the pandemic in the U.S. and Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday that starting next week any nonessential travellers arriving in Canada by land will need to show a negative PCR-based COVID-19 test or face a fine if they don’t have one.

That wouldn’t be an issue for NBA teams; travelling parties are tested daily, players multiple times a day.

The bigger issue is logistics. The land border already remains closed to nonessential travellers who are not Canadian citizens; Canada requires those entering the country to isolate for 14 days, which wouldn’t be feasible for NBA teams, and the Canadian government has also strongly discouraged nonessential travel for any reason.

Toronto made the move south last fall, knowing Thursday’s decision was a real possibility.

The Raptors tried to simulate the comforts the team has at home in Toronto, at least as much as possible. “We The North” — the team motto — signage is everywhere in the hotel that the Raptors are using as a practice facility in Tampa, from the elevator doors to the ballroom wall behind one of the baskets. The court that the Raptors use for games was shipped down from Toronto. And there’s a 2019 world championship banner swaying from the rafters, alongside the Lightning’s retired jerseys for Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, at the same end of the court as the Raptors’ bench.

“They did a great job,” Raptors guard Fred VanVleet said earlier this season.

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CBC | Sports News

What calling down the 2nd U.S. presidential debate means for the race and voters

U.S. President Donald Trump and former vice-president Joe Biden were supposed to face off in a second presidential debate Thursday night in Miami. Instead, the two candidates will be attending duelling town hall events hosted by two different networks.

Despite concerns about his health, Trump returned to the campaign trail 10 days after testing positive for COVID-19. Now, with less than three weeks to go until election day, the president is once again holding packed nightly rallies in an effort to mobilize his base. But is it enough to make up for lost time?

And given the debacle of the first presidential debate, will a town hall rather than another face-to-face showdown with Trump work for or against Biden’s campaign?

CBC’s The National assembled a panel of U.S. political commentators, hosted by Adrienne Arsenault, to talk about the state of the race, who Trump and Biden need to be reaching out to, and issues around voter turnout:

  • Daniel McCarthy is editor of Modern Age: A Conservative Review, editor-at-large of The American Conservative, a columnist for The Spectator, and says he will be voting for Trump on Nov. 3. During the panel discussion, he said he believes Trump’s speedy recovery from COVID-19 may benefit him in the race. But McCarthy added that the best news for the president’s campaign right now is coming out of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • Danielle Moodie is the host of the political podcast Woke AF Daily and co-host of the podcast Democracy-ish, and is hoping for a Joe Biden-Kamala Harris win. Moodie said Trump getting COVID-19 didn’t change his attitude toward the virus, and that means Democrats need to continue to show how dangerous having him in the White House is for the country and the world.
  • Yascha Mounk is the founder and editor-in-chief of Persuasion, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University, and contributing editor at The Atlantic. A centrist, Mounk is hoping for a Biden win. Mounk said the high early voting turnout suggests a similar trend on election day. But he added that the voting demographics are changing from those in 2016: Trump has gained some ground among younger voters and voters of colour, and Biden is attracting a lot of support among older voters. Mounk said if Biden wins in 2020, it will be because he will have won back people who voted for Trump four years ago.

WATCH | The U.S. election panel’s evaluation of the sole vice-presidential debate:

With less than three weeks to go until election day, The National’s U.S. political panel looks at what cancelling the second presidential debate means for the race, whether President Donald Trump getting COVID-19 changed anything and what voter groups both candidates are trying to reach. 7:52

More from The National’s U.S. election panel:

Vice-presidential debate dissected

U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence and Democratic candidate Sen. Kamala Harris went toe-to-toe Oct. 7 in Salt Lake City, Utah, in the sole vice-presidential debate of the 2020 U.S. election. All eyes were on the pair after the chaotic performance of President Donald Trump and former Vice-President Joe Biden in their first presidential debate on Sept. 29. USA Today Washington bureau chief Susan Page moderated a much more measured debate, although at times the candidates did not directly address her questions. Pence and Harris debated topics ranging from the handling of the pandemic and relations with China, to racial justice and policies around job creation and climate change.

WATCH | The National’s panel of U.S. political experts analyzes the vice-presidential debate:

A panel of U.S. politics experts breaks down what happened during the vice-presidential debate between Vice-President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris and the impact it could have on November’s election. 9:56

First presidential debate

U.S. President Donald Trump and Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden squared off Sept. 29 in their first election debate from Case Western University in Cleveland, Ohio. The 90-minute exchange, punctuated by a regular stream of outbursts and interruptions, covered topics ranging from the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, to law enforcement and climate change, to the political records of both candidates. The debate also touched on more recent events, including the Supreme Court nomination to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the leak of Trump’s tax information.

WATCH | The National’s panel of U.S. political experts analyzes the first presidential debate and its likely impact on the U.S. election:

A panel of U.S. politics experts breaks down what happened during the first presidential debate between U.S. President Donald Trump and former vice-president Joe Biden and the impact it could have on November’s election. 10:16

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CBC | World News

Trudeau pens op-ed with world leaders calling for equal access to coronavirus vaccine

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has joined the leaders of Spain, New Zealand, South Korea, Ethiopia and three other countries in calling for equitable access to a coronavirus vaccine when one is developed.

In a new opinion piece published in the Washington Post’s “Global Opinions” section, the leaders urge countries to co-operate on manufacturing and distributing a vaccine to ensure that less-developed countries don’t lose out to rich ones.

“As the world is still in the midst of the deadliest pandemic of the 21st century, with the number of cases still rising at the global level, immunization is our best chance of ending the pandemic at home and across the world — but only if all countries get access to the vaccine,” it reads.

“While global cooperation in terms of resources, expertise and experiences is paramount for developing a vaccine, manufacturing and distributing it while leaving no one behind will truly put global cooperation to the test.”

The message comes as labs around the world race to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus — and as signs emerge of a global tug-of-war between countries seeking to secure vaccine supplies for their own citizens first.

Global effort to develop vaccine

The global scientific community is engaged in an unprecedented effort to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, with researchers in dozens of countries concurrently developing and testing potential vaccine candidates.

Some countries — including Britain, France, Germany and the United States — already have ordered hundreds of millions of doses of vaccines that have not yet been shown to work.

In their op-ed, the eight leaders said governments should develop a set of transparent, fair and scientifically-sound principles to guide the distribution of coronavirus vaccines.

“This cannot be a race with one winner,” they wrote. “When one or more vaccines are successful, it must be a win for all of us.”

The leaders said the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility is one example of an initiative intended to ensure that any effective vaccine is distributed fairly around the world.

More than 150 countries have signed up with COVAX, including 75 wealthy countries that would finance vaccines from their public budgets and another 90 lower-income countries that hope to receive donated vaccines, the vaccine alliance Gavi said in a statement Wednesday.

Trudeau recently called for countries to pull together in the race for a vaccine when attending two events meant to raise funds for vaccine research and development.

The prime minister pledged $ 850 million for the Global Coronavirus Response in May and said Canada would contribute $ 120 million toward a new initiative called the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator last month.

The ACT Accelerator was created in April by the World Health Organization, the French government, the European Commission and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to ensure equitable access to medical treatments. It supports organizations, health professionals and businesses in their efforts to develop a vaccine, as well as drug therapies and diagnostic tools to battle the pandemic.

Both pledges are in addition to Canada’s five-year, $ 600-million pledge to GAVI, which has immunized 760 million children and prevented 13 million deaths in the world’s poorest countries since 2000. 

The world leaders argued that successfully developing a vaccine and then distributing it broadly would serve as “a cornerstone of strengthening multilateralism for the future.”

The other leaders who signed the Washington Post op-ed include:

  • President Sahle-Work Zewde of Ethiopia
  • President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea
  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa (also chairperson of the African Union)
  • Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez Pérez-Castejón of Spain
  • Prime Minister Stefan Löfven of Sweden
  • Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh of the Republic of Tunisia

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CBC | Health News

Janet Mock on Finding Her Calling as a Director, the Emmys and Telling Authentic Stories (Exclusive)

Janet Mock on Finding Her Calling as a Director, the Emmys and Telling Authentic Stories (Exclusive) | Entertainment Tonight

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Biden blasts Keystone XL, calling it ‘tarsands we don’t need’

Joe Biden has criticized Canadian “tarsands” oil, doubling down on his promise to scrap the Keystone XL pipeline if he’s elected U.S. president in November.

The presumptive Democratic nominee made clear in an interview with CNBC that a statement from his campaign earlier this week reflects his position: He wants the pipeline stopped.

“I’ve been against Keystone from the beginning. It is tarsands that we don’t need — that in fact is very, very high pollutant,” Biden said Friday.

When pressed by an interviewer about the damage this pledge might do to the oil industry, Biden replied that he doesn’t want to shut down all projects immediately.

He brushed off, however, the importance of the Alberta-to-Texas pipeline to the U.S. industry.

“We’re gonna transition gradually to get to a clean economy,” Biden said.

“But the idea of shutting down Keystone, as if that is the thing that keeps the oil industry moving, is just not rational. It does not economically, nor, in my view, environmentally, make any sense.”

Criticism from Alberta

His remarks reaffirmed a statement released by his campaign earlier this week.

Biden’s promise to cancel the pipeline has caused some consternation across the border. In Alberta, taxpayers are investing $ 1.5 billion in the pipeline project.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney this week said Biden would have a hard time explaining to Americans why he’d kill a part-finished project.

Construction recently began on the long-delayed project, which would carry oilsands crude into a system connected to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.

The pipeline’s backers hope it might alleviate bottlenecks that have often plagued Alberta’s land-locked oil, and eventually carry roughly one-fifth of all the oil Canada exports to the U.S.

In Canada, the Trudeau Liberals’ opponents have urged them to use their well-documented connections to Biden’s inner circle to change the candidate’s mind.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said the Liberal government should be lobbying their “friends in the Democratic party” on Keystone XL.

WATCH | Trudeau vows support for Keystone XL project:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s always supported the Keystone XL project and will work with the next U.S. administration to ensure it understands the project’s importance to Canada. Trudeau is responding to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden saying that he will cancel the project if he’s elected. 0:58

Early work begun

Construction is barely underway.

The Associated Press reports that a nearly two-kilometre section has been completed across the Alberta-Montana border. However, legal and logistical challenges risk further slowing the projected three-year construction. 

The AP said site work has begun for labour camps near Baker, Mont., and Philip, S.D., but there is no date to occupy them.

The state of Montana expects plans from TC Energy, the Calgary-based company building the pipeline, on precautions to avoid spread of COVID-19 among workers, but has not received them yet.

In addition, a May 15 ruling from a Montana federal judge cancelled a key permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers required to build the line across hundreds of streams, wetlands and other water bodies.

The pipeline debate was a major issue in U.S. politics several years ago. After years of delay, then-president Barack Obama cancelled a critical permit in 2015, a move President Donald Trump reversed in 2017. 

Yet Biden’s announcement this week produced few headlines in the U.S. Even on Friday, other remarks by Biden drew far more attention.

They included him telling CNBC that businesses should pay higher taxes — he specifically mentioned Amazon.

But the comment that got the most attention, by far, was Biden telling an African American radio interviewer that people who consider voting for Trump “ain’t black.”

The Trump campaign called the remark disgusting and tweeted about it nearly two dozen times Friday morning. Biden’s campaign said the remark was made in jest.

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CBC | World News

From ‘risk is low’ to calling in the army: 2 months of Ontario’s COVID-19 response in long-term care

Two months ago, Ontario had just four confirmed cases of COVID-19. Now there are more than 12,000, and at least 759 deaths. Two-thirds of the dead lived in the province’s long-term care homes.

This timeline shows what steps Ontario took — and failed to take — to protect the residents and staff of nursing homes as the coronavirus spread. 

Feb 23 

The number of deaths worldwide from COVID-19 surpasses 2,400. In Italy, police checkpoints seal off 11 towns and the Lombardy region closes schools and cinemas. Ontario reports one new positive test for the coronavirus. “Given the individual’s clinical assessment and history, there is a low risk that she was infectious,” says Ontario’s chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams. “I want to assure the public that the risk to Ontarians remains low.”

March 2

Health Minister Christine Elliott announces the teams in charge of Ontario’s strategic response to the novel coronavirus. It’s led by a command table of senior officials. One of the members is the deputy minister of long-term care. 

March 8 

Canada’s first death from COVID-19 is reported. The victim is a resident of a long-term care home in North Vancouver, B.C. The number of confirmed cases in Ontario reaches 29. “At this time, the virus is not circulating locally,” Williams says in a news release

Chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams said the province is now also doing COVID-19 testing on samples from long-term care homes where there is any respiratory outbreak. (CBC)

March 9 

In a memo, Ontario’s assistant deputy minister for long-term care instructs homes to screen visitors for symptoms of the illness “where possible over the phone.” The screening does not extend to staff until March 11, the day the World Health Organization declares COVID-19 a pandemic.

March 13 

The province confirms 20 new positive cases of the virus, bringing the total to 79. Williams “strongly recommends” that long-term care homes cease non-essential visits, but stops short of making it an order. 

March 16 

“Our government is taking all the necessary precautions to ensure loved ones in Ontario’s long-term care homes are safe and secure,” says Health Minister Christine Elliott and Minister of Long-Term Care Merrillee Fullerton in a statement. Ontario is yet to report any deaths from COVID-19. 

March 17 

Premier Doug Ford declares a state of emergency in Ontario. There have been 189 confirmed cases across the province. 

March 18 

An outbreak is declared at the Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, Ont. Within three weeks, 28 of the home’s 64 residents will die. 

The Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon is among the first long-term care facilities in Ontario to be rocked by COVID-19. Nearly half its residents eventually die of the disease. (Fred Thornhill/Canadian Press)

March 19 

A woman in her 90s at the Hillsdale Terraces long-term care home in Oshawa shows symptoms of COVID-19. However, the public health unit does not receive her test results until March 23, the day she dies.

As the end of March Break nears, Williams recommends 14 days of self-isolation for health-care workers who have travelled internationally, but does not make it mandatory. The federal government waits until March 25 before ordering a quarantine.  

March 22 

Williams asks long-term care homes to limit the number of locations that employees are working at “wherever possible,” in an effort to reduce the risk of staff carrying the virus from home to home. This does not become a mandatory policy until a month later.

March 26 

The deaths in long-term care facilities begin to mount. Two at Seven Oaks in Scarborough. Two at Pinecrest in Bobcaygeon. One resident of the Heritage Green Nursing Home in Stoney Creek.

Still, the province continues to recommend against testing everyone in long-term care homes that see outbreaks. Ontario’s capacity to test for COVID-19 shows strains, as the number of people waiting for lab results soars above 10,000

March 27 

There are confirmed cases in at least 16 homes in Ontario, the Globe and Mail reveals, although the government is not providing a province-wide figure. 

The associate chief medical officer of health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, is asked why the province does not order testing on all residents of long-term care homes where outbreaks are declared. “We don’t want to use up the limited lab resources to test everybody when we already know what the cause of the outbreak is,” she replies.  

March 28 

The outbreak at Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon is raging. Roughly half the staff are reported sick with symptoms of COVID-19. 

March 30 

With nine deaths reported at Pinecrest, Ford tells the daily news briefing: “We’re putting an iron ring of protection around our seniors. We must do everything we can to prevent further spread in these homes.” 

March 31 

More deaths and outbreaks hit homes, and Ottawa’s medical officer of health calls the long-term care sector her “top concern.”

“We’re doing everything we can to protect the most vulnerable,” Ford says in his daily news conference.  

CBC reporter Lisa Xing challenges Ford: “We’ve known for some time that this is a vulnerable population. Why did the province not act sooner to stop the virus from spreading in long-term care homes?” 

“I just wish I had a crystal ball a month ago, a month and a half ago to see where this was going,” Ford replies.  

WATCH: March 31 – Ontario Premier Doug Ford defends his government’s efforts to protect long-term care residents

“Why did the province not act sooner to stop the virus from spreading in long-term care homes?” CBC reporter Lisa Xing asked Ford on March 31. 1:26

April 1

Research by CBC News reveals 40 people have died at long-term care and retirement homes and counts declared outbreaks in at least 41 facilities, although the numbers of outbreaks and deaths given by provincial officials are far lower. 

“There’s more that we can do,” says Health Minister Christine Elliott. “We are very concerned about outbreaks in long-term-care homes,” she tells the daily news briefing. “That’s a very, very vulnerable group of people that we need to protect, absolutely.” 

WATCH: April 1 – Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott responds to the worsening situation in long-term care homes 

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott acknowledged the government had more work to do protecting seniors in long-term care on April 1. 0:59

April 2 

“If my mom was in long-term care, I would pull her out. Now,” says Dr. Samir Sinha, a geriatrics specialist with Sinai Health System in Toronto and a top provincial adviser on senior care. 

In a separate interview with CBC News, Sinha urges Ontario to test every resident and staff member in any long-term care home that discovers an outbreak, pointing to evidence from the U.S. of confirmed cases among nursing home residents without symptoms. 

April 3 

Ontario reveals modelling that forecasts up to 15,000 deaths in the province, and lengthens its list of non-essential businesses, but announces no new measures regarding long-term care homes.  

April 6

Nearly 40 per cent of the residents of Anson Place Care Centre in Hagersville, Ont. (south of Hamilton) have tested positive, along with 22 staff. Five residents are dead, and within two weeks the death toll reaches 24.   

April 7

The province is reporting 78 deaths in long-term care and outbreaks in at least 58 homes. Meanwhile, Ontario’s daily number of tests completed barely exceeds 2,500, lower than its daily rate of testing in mid-March. 

April 8 

Williams issues a new directive to long-term care homes. It requires all long-term staff to wear masks at all times for the duration of their shifts and increases the frequency of screening for symptoms to twice a day. 

WATCH: April 8 – Premier Doug Ford says he wants testing done at ‘every single long-term care facility’ in Ontario 

Doug Ford says his patience has ‘run thin’ over the unacceptably low number of tests being done in Ontario. 1:44

April 10 

The impact of COVID-19 on Ontario’s long-term care homes hits two grim milestones: the number of cases among residents and staff surpasses 1,000 and the number of deaths surpasses 100. Those are the official numbers from Public Health Ontario. 

Ontario’s releases new testing guidelines, which continue to recommend against testing all residents of long-term care homes, even when there’s an outbreak. Provincial officials tell reporters in a not-for-attribution briefing that such testing is of limited value.

April 12

At the Anson Place Care Centre in Hagersville, south of Hamilton, 13 people are dead and more than half the home’s residents have tested positive for COVID-19, along with 30 staff.  

April 13 

News emerges that 25 residents of the Eatonville Care Centre in Etobicoke are dead. 

Facing questions about the province’s actions so far, Ford insists he and his government “are doing absolutely everything we possibly can” to protect long-term care residents.  “We could look backwards and point out every single little item. I’m sure there’s areas in this whole pandemic that are, ‘Could’ve, should’ve, would’ve.’ I feel we’re doing everything we can right now.” 

April 15 

Ford announces what he calls Ontario’s “action plan” for long-term care. “Today, we’re throwing everything we’ve got at our long term care homes,” he says. “We’re mobilizing every available resource.”  

The plan promises wider (but still not universal) testing in homes and offers help from hospital teams specializing in preventing and controlling infections. One of its provisions — a ban on employees working at more than one facility  — does not kick in for another week. 

It’s also been five weeks since the WHO declared the pandemic. Since then, according to Ontario’s official figures: 

•162 long-term care residents have died.

•933 residents are infected.

•530 staff are infected.

April 17

Nearly 2,000 residents and staff of long-term care homes have been infected with COVID-19, and the death toll surpasses 200. A personal support worker at a home in Scarborough dies. “It’s heartbreaking to hear of these tragedies and we’re doing everything we possibly can, as we’ve said, to put an iron ring around these homes,” says Ford. 

April 20 

The province releases new projections modelling the spread of infections in Ontario. While officials say this wave of COVID-19 has peaked in the border community, the spread of the virus is still accelerating in long-term care. The data show 367 people have died in long-term care homes. 

April 22

Ford announces he has asked for the Canadian Forces to help at five long-term care homes, which the federal government approves a day later.

The death toll from long-term care surpasses 400. There are outbreaks in 125 homes and more than 2,800 residents and staff have tested positive for the virus 

April 23

Ontario updates its reporting system for COVID-19 deaths, and the official death toll in long-term care surges to 516. Given all those deaths, Ford is asked if the province failed. “The system needs to be changed, and we’re changing the system,” he replies. “But right now our main focus is to make sure that we protect the people inside these long-term care homes.”

Ford’s voice quakes with emotion during the news conference. Afterward, an official confirms that Ford’s mother-in-law has tested positive for COVID-19. She is a resident at Toronto’s West Park Long-Term Care home, where at least 13 people have died. 

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CBC | Health News

‘Wartime president’ Trump isn’t calling all the shots in U.S. battle against COVID-19

U.S. President Donald Trump’s “15 Days to Slow the Spread” coronavirus guidelines — mostly advice to stay home if you’re sick and avoid social gatherings — would have expired by now had he not extended them to April 30.  

“We have reason to believe that it’s working,” Vice-President Mike Pence announced at Tuesday’s COVID-19 briefing. He held out the revised one-page bullet point guidelines — “30 Days to Slow the Spread” — and solemnly explained that by extending them, the president was asking the American people to follow the advice for another 30 days.

It’s understandable the White House would try to appear on top of this most formidable challenge of the Trump presidency — especially after repeatedly downplaying the severity of COVID-19 when it first showed up in the U.S. more than two months ago.

The evidence is documented in Trump’s televised statements and his own Twitter feed. He said the outbreak was under control when it wasn’t. He said tests were available for all who needed them when they weren’t.

Now deep into the COVID-19 crisis, with more than 211,000 confirmed infections in the U.S. and more than 4,700 deaths, Trump is finding the levers of presidential power aren’t always perfectly aligned with what’s required.

The White House guidelines are much weaker — advisories, really — compared to the state laws now directing the behaviour of more than 265 million Americans.

In Virginia, for instance, Gov. Ralph Northam proclaimed on Monday a statewide stay-at-home order until June 10 — a decree that is much stricter, more confining and six weeks longer than the White House guidelines, and with the actual force of law behind it.

Just as Virginia’s new rules kicked in, Maryland and the District of Columbia announced their own similar orders that effectively shut down all sectors of their economies that are not essential to the health and welfare of the citizenry. More than half the states in the U.S. now have something like that in place, including California, New York and parts of Texas.

Cyclists ride through a nearly empty Times Square in New York earlier this week. New York has been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters)

At Trump’s daily White House press briefings, he claims he is a “wartime president” battling an “invisible enemy,” as though he were in command of the fight against the coronavirus. He is not. No single person nor branch of government is.

He might like to have more authority. Trump is keenly aware that a bustling economy with a hot stock market is the cornerstone of his re-election plan. Just last week, he was clearly itching for people to get out of their homes and back to work by Easter lest the economy grind from a slowdown to a stop between now and November.

But it is the individual states that decide whether to impose or lift the shelter-in-place decrees across the country, not Trump — and he can’t change that, say legal scholars citing both the constitution and court precedents.

“No, the president cannot simply order state and local governments to change their policies,” says University of Texas law professor Robert Chesney, writing in the Lawfare blog.

Constitutionally legitimate federal laws do supersede state and local laws, he says, but there isn’t a federal law that fits these circumstances. Without one, “it does not follow that President Trump can therefore override state and local rules on matters like shelter-in-place.”

Still, Trump does bring some unique powers to the fight against COVID-19. At the end of January, for instance, Trump barred entry by foreign nationals travelling from China — the original epicentre of the outbreak — to the US. Only a president has the authority to do that.

Limits of president’s power

Both the public health and the economic health of the country are, to a large degree, in the hands of all governments — federal, state and local.

State governors estimate both their economic and health-supply needs in the battle against the virus and make demands on the federal government for funds and the co-ordination of scarce supplies of equipment — but again, the president is often not the decisive player.

Sometimes that’s by choice. Trump has told states to look after themselves in the marketplace for medical equipment.

“Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment — try getting it yourselves,” he reportedly told governors in a conference call last month.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference last Tuesday against a backdrop of medical supplies at the Jacob Javits Center that will house a temporary hospital in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Cuomo has received widespread praise for his handling of the health crisis in New York. He has called on the federal government to play a leading in procuring medical supplies and equipment. (John Minchillo/The Associated Press)

And the states complain that this essentially puts them in a bidding war with each other for equipment the federal government could buy and distribute.

Sometimes when the president does want to take charge he’s overruled by lawmakers.

Take, for example, his initial emergency funding plan a few weeks ago.

Trump proposed to Congress a $ 2.5-billion bill to combat the coronavirus. Congress came back to him with a rewritten bill for more than $ 8 billion instead.

“I’ll take it,” Trump said, and, really, how could he not? But the message was clear: Congress wouldn’t just rubber-stamp urgent funds based on the president’s say-so. It recalculated the scope of the emergency and decided for itself what was needed. 

And from that eventually followed the $ 2-trillion relief package negotiated by the White House, House Democrats and Senate Republicans. A key part of the bill gives Congress oversight of how the money is spent, something the White House had resisted in the hope it could dole out some of the money as it pleased. Congress didn’t allow that.

A man wears a face mask while the USNS Comfort and New York’s Empire State Building are seen from Weehawken, N.J. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Most health services are provided at the state and local level, but as commander-in-chief, Trump has sent a hospital ship to New York and another to Los Angeles. Again, a unique authority put into action by the president.

He has also, after much urging from governors, used the Defence Production Act. The act gives the president power to direct private companies to manufacture whatever is needed. Trump used it last week to order General Motors to speed up production of the ventilators used at hospitals. GM says it was already doing the best it could.

In some ways, the most powerful tool of the presidency is what President Theodore Roosevelt dubbed the bully pulpit — the platform of the office itself. A president’s voice is the loudest and most influential in the country. It can excite people and inspire them to action; it can calm people and bring them together; it can lead a national conversation. It can also fail to do any of that.

At the moment, Trump is cautioning Americans, telling them the worst is yet to come and that limiting the COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. to 100,000 might be a win.

“We’re going to go through a very tough two weeks,” he said at Tuesday’s briefing.

But the record tells an even grimmer story of Trump downplaying the coronavirus threat in the U.S., declaring the outbreak all but over before it had really begun, and dismissing contrary views as a “hoax.”

It is a record that suggests precious time was squandered.

His opponents have already strung together clips of Trump’s bursts of misinformation and posted them online as election-style ads. They will presumably play them from now until November.

And no, Trump doesn’t have the power to stop that either.

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‘I don’t want anyone calling my kid coronavirus’: Asian Americans fear COVID-19 backlash

Tony Du is a first-generation Chinese American epidemiologist living in Maryland who has closely followed COVID-19 and its path of destruction since its very beginning in Wuhan. Now that it’s hitting the U.S. hard, he’s doing what he can to help out locally.

A couple of weekends ago, he spent some of his down time training to join the Maryland Responds Medical Reserve Corps, a community, volunteer group that bolsters the U.S. public health system.

Later that week, U.S. President Donald Trump used the term “Chinese virus” publicly for the first time. Du was floored.

“This is the darkest day I have seen in my 20 years in the United States,” he posted on the Nextdoor app he sometimes uses to volunteer help to neighbours in need.

In an interview this week with CBC News, he elaborated. 

“I think that is very, very wrong,” he said of Trump’s choice of words. “Here I am preparing to fight for our public, and you stab me in the back.”

Liang Zhao, Rose Xu, Angela Men and Tony Du collect personal protective equipment for local health care workers in Maryland. (Jun Tong)

Du said his son’s classmates now sometimes say they want to stay away from the Asian kids in school because they might have the virus.

“I don’t want anyone to call my kid ‘coronavirus,'” Du said. 

‘Kung Flu’

A Washington Post photographer captured a shot of Trump’s briefing notes from March 19, which showed “corona” struck out in black marker before the word “virus” and replaced with “Chinese.” 

Since then, Trump has repeatedly called it the “Chinese virus” while other world leaders stick with calling it COVID-19 or the novel coronavirus.

A close-up of U.S. President Donald Trump’s notes for the March 19 coronavirus briefing shows where the word ‘corona’ was crossed out before the word ‘virus’ and replaced with ‘Chinese.’ (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

Last week, CBS White House correspondent Weijia Jiang said a White House staffer called the virus the “Kung Flu” when talking with the reporter.

The comment “makes me wonder what they are calling it behind my back,” Jiang posted on Twitter.

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a meeting with his G7 colleagues, insisted the virus be called the “Wuhan virus” in a joint communique. Ministers from other countries refused to agree.

The problem with naming the virus this way, the World Health Organization points out in guidelines, is that disease names really do matter. History has shown that certain names have caused a backlash against particular groups.

Trump has since tried to walk back his comments, calling Asian Americans “amazing people” in a March 23 tweet.

“The spreading of the Virus is NOT their fault,” he wrote.

But a half-hour drive north of Washington — back in Maryland — Asian Americans are worried. 

Du and his Chinese American friends and colleagues say they are experiencing daily micro-aggressions and blatant racism.

One friend monitors WeChat groups reporting verbal and physical assaults. Another, Liang Zhao, said his son was out walking the dog when a woman walking in the opposite direction asked him to stop and switch to the other side of the road.

“Your dog looks beautiful, but you know,” said Zhao, describing what the woman told his son.

Ironically, Zhao, Du and several other Chinese Americans have raised $ 80,000 in a GoFund me campaign to help provide personal protective equipment to front-line health care providers in the region.

Watch: How to confront racism sparked by coronavirus fears

Despite the low risk of transmission in this country, Asian Canadians have become the targets of xenophobic comments in recent days, both online and offline. 3:38

‘Please stop the prejudice’

Aryani Ong is a former civil rights attorney who has specialized in Asian American rights for the last 30 years. She’s an Indonesian Chinese American based in Maryland and says that what’s happening in her home state with Chinese-Americans is rippling out across the U.S.

She points to big numbers of racist incidents reported on NextShark, an Asian American news site, and on the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council site.

“These kinds of numbers are not something I have seen before,” said Ong.

Aryani Ong is an Indonesian-Chinese-American civil rights attorney living in Bethesda, Md. She says Trump ‘lacked the sensitivity’ to understand the impact of his words on Asian Americans. (Aryani Ong)

The incidents are higher in some U.S. cities with large Asian American populations, such as New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

That’s why Asian American Hollywood actors and political leaders, including California Governor Gavin Newsom and Democratic Rep. Judy Chu, are speaking out against racism.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter, Bernice King, recently tweeted: “Please stop the prejudice and senseless violence against Asian people. Randomly beating elderly, sometimes homeless Asian Americans is cowardly, heartbreaking and it’s inexcusable.”

U.S. President Donald Trump tried to walk back his earlier references to the ‘Chinese virus’ by calling Asian Americans ‘amazing people’ and calling for them to be protected. (Alex Brandon/The Associated Press)

“Trump wants the news to focus on the foreignness of the disease, but in doing that, he lacked the sensitivity to understand the impact on the Asian Americans,” said Ong.

“He should have been cognizant of the impact on Asian Americans. The general public does not differentiate well. And now, we see people are accosting Asian Americans as being disease carriers.”

‘More afraid of crazy people than the virus’

That’s exactly what sent Jonathan Yeung, a father of two young children, to the Engage Armament gun shop in Rockville, Md., this week.

“Luckily, this city is still very peaceful, I have not experienced it, knock on wood,” said Yeung, after purchasing his first gun.

“I don’t want to experience it. I blame our president. The word that he’s chosen is really damaging and hurting the Asian community. It’s not necessary to call it the Chinese virus.”

WATCH | Jonathan Yeung explains why the recently bought a gun:

Maryland resident Jonathan Yeung explains why the coronavirus pandemic has prompted him to buy his first gun. He says U.S. President Donald Trump’s use of the term ‘Chinese virus’ has potentially put Asian Americans in danger. 0:52

Andy Raymond is the co-owner of Engage Armament and said he’s seen a 300 per cent uptick in gun sales since the outbreak of COVID-19 and that many of the buyers are Asian American.

“They’re afraid of the consequences of what this virus will bring,” he said. “They’re just afraid — whether it’s to protect their families or from backlash against anti-Chinese sentiment or for some kind of lockdown.”

Andy Raymond co-owns Engage Armament in Rockville, Md., and said he’s seen a 300 per cent uptick in gun sales since the outbreak of COVID-19. Many of the buyers are Asian American, he said. (Paul Andre St-Onge Fleurant/CBC News)

Du, too, has been motivated to buy a gun recently. He already owns one but said he’s now in the process of getting an AR-15-style automatic weapon. 

“I am more afraid of crazy people than the virus,” said Du.

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U.S. House investigators given tape of Trump calling for ambassador’s ouster

An associate of Rudy Giuliani has provided congressional investigators with a recording of U.S. President Donald Trump saying he wanted to get rid of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, whose ouster emerged as an issue in the president’s impeachment, his attorney told The Associated Press on Friday.

The Giuliani associate, Lev Parnas, attended a small dinner with Trump at his Washington hotel in April 2018. Joseph Bondy, Parnas’ lawyer, said he turned over to the House intelligence committee a recording from the dinner in which Trump demands the removal of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.

The recording, which was first reported by ABC News, appears to contradict the president’s statements that he did not know Parnas, a key figure in the investigation. It came to light as Democrats continue to press for witnesses and other evidence to be considered during the Senate impeachment trial.

ABC News reported that a speaker who appears to be Trump says on the recording, “Get rid of her! Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it.”

Parnas and associate Igor Fruman worked with Giuliani on a push to get Ukraine to announce it would investigate former vice-president Joe Biden, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. On the recording, the two tell Trump that the U.S. ambassador has been insulting him, which leads directly to the apparent remarks by the president.

The White House denied any suggestion of presidential wrongdoing.

“Every president in our history has had the right to place people who support his agenda and his policies within his administration,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said.

‘Clearly questionable motives’

Yovanovitch, who was viewed as an obstacle to probes into Biden and his son Hunter, was not recalled from her position until the following April. She said the decision was based on “unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives” that she was disloyal to Trump.

Parnas appears to say on the recording: “The biggest problem there, I think where we need to start, is we gotta get rid of the ambassador. She’s still left over from the Clinton administration.”

He later can be heard telling Trump. “She’s basically walking around telling everybody, ‘Wait, he’s gonna get impeached. Just wait.”

U.S. House investigators have been working to document an almost yearlong effort to have Marie Yovanovitch removed from her post as ambassador to Ukraine by Lev Parnas and Rudy Giuliani. (Sarah Silbiger/Reuters)

House investigators have been working to document an almost yearlong effort on the part of Parnas and Giuliani to have Yovanovitch removed from her post. Parnas and Fruman were recently indicted by the Southern District of New York on charges including conspiracy to commit campaign finance fraud. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Democrats seized on the recording as further evidence of Trump’s involvement.

“If this is additional evidence of his involvement in that effort to smear her, it would certainly corroborate much of what we’ve heard, but I’m not in a position yet to analyze that, not having looked at it,” Rep. Adam Schiff of California said.

Parnas has done a series of interviews in recent days in which he has asserted that Trump was aware of the plan to remove Yovanovitch. Trump has distanced himself from Parnas, and the president’s supporters have questioned his credibility and motives.

“I don’t know Parnas other than I guess I had pictures taken, which I do with thousands of people,” Trump said last week. “But I just met him. I don’t know him at all. Don’t know what he’s about, don’t know where he comes from, know nothing about him. I can only tell you this thing is a big hoax.”

The Associated Press has not reviewed the recording.

The president is being tried in the Senate after the House impeached him last month, accusing him of abusing his office by asking Ukraine to probe the Bidens while withholding military aid from a U.S. ally at war with Russia. The second article of impeachment accuses Trump of obstructing Congress by refusing to turn over documents or allow officials to testify in the House probe.

Republicans have defended Trump’s actions as appropriate and are casting the process as a politically motivated effort to weaken him in his reelection campaign. Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, and acquittal is considered likely.

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