The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for May 31
- Coronavirus tracker: Follow the pace of COVID-19 cases, vaccinations in Canada.
- Parents await decision on school in Ontario, which sees case numbers decline.
- Boris Johnson talks to CBC News about the pandemic discussions that need to happen at the upcoming G7 meeting in Britain.
- No particular place to go: Would-be drivers face postponements, backlogs for road tests.
- Read more: Health minister expects to consult with provinces this week as the federal government tries to formulate a U.S. border reopening roadmap; in case you missed it, Ontario is getting a new chief medical officer of health.
Manitoba hits new high for COVID-19 patients in ICUs
Manitoba public health officials reported 303 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, and the province hit a new pandemic record for people being treated in intensive care units.
There were 30 COVID patients admitted to Manitoba intensive care units during a 48-hour period from Friday to Sunday. To date, 246 COVID patients have been admitted to ICUs in Manitoba for the month of May — nearly five times more than the 50 admitted to ICUs in April.
The province now has a record 107 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units: 71 in Manitoba, 35 in Ontario and one in Saskatchewan, after reaching deals with those two provinces to held reduce the strain on the provincial health-care system.
There were 303 new COVID-19 cases announced on Monday, although because of technical issues, Monday's new case total is an undercount, a provincial news release said. It was expected that the issue would be sorted out in time for Tuesday's report, which will contain the missing cases as well as the subsequent 24-hour period.
Of the news cases, 81 per cent were in the Winnipeg health region.
As a result of all the sobering numbers, Manitoba finds itself in the unenviable position of outlier as several other provinces appear to riding the downslope of the pandemic's third wave.
Dr. Jazz Atwal, Manitoba's deputy provincial public health officer, promised Manitoba would enact restrictions in time to prevent his province from suffering a similar fate when those jurisdictions were at the height of their recent struggles
"Ontario, when you look at how the case numbers went up, likely waited much too long," Atwal said during an April 16 news briefing. "We're not going to go down that road, I could assure you that."
Premier Brian Pallister went further later that month, lashing out at ICU physicians' calls for a lockdown.
"There are a lot of other people out in the province who don't have a guaranteed paycheque, who are struggling to make ends meet, who have to work for a living, and they don't want to go back to depending on a government program," he said.
But now the toll is all too apparent.
Winnipeg ICU physician Eric Jacobsohn said the hospital crisis has also led to the deaths of non-COVID patients, mainly because thousands of surgeries have been cancelled to free up hospital staff to work on COVID-19 wards. Six cardiac patients have died waiting for heart surgeries that could not be performed because nurses and other health-care staff were not available, Jacobsohn said on May 25.
See a visual representation of the progression of Manitoba's cases during the current wave of the pandemic further down in this newsletter.
From The National
Ontario reports 916 new COVID-19 cases, fewest since mid-February
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Monday an announcement on the remainder of the school year is coming in the "next day or two."
Speaking at Queen's Park, Ford said his government is reviewing responses to a letter sent last week that solicited advice from a range of expert groups, public health officials, teachers unions and other stakeholders. The school year for most elementary and secondary students in the province is scheduled to end on June 25 or June 28.
Ontario's coronavirus numbers on Monday appeared to illustrate a positive trend in a number of benchmarks.
The province reported 916 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, the fewest on a single day since mid-February. As a result, the seven-day average of daily cases fell to 1,078. As well, Public Health Ontario logged a positivity rate of 4.3 per cent of all lab tests, the lowest reported on a Monday since March 15.
As of Sunday, there were 617 patients with COVID-related illnesses being treated in intensive care units. Of those, 382 needed a ventilator to breathe. According to Critical Care Services Ontario, the median stay for COVID-19 patients in critical care is about 21.5 days.
Meanwhile, Ontarians aged 80 years and older are eligible to receive their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as the province accelerates the timing between first and second shots because of a stable supply of vaccines and progress in delivering first doses.
Shanta Sundarason, founder of PinkCars in York Region, north of Toronto, says her volunteer-run group has helped book COVID-19 appointments for about 3,800 seniors and offered more than 400 rides to and from vaccination clinics since the organization's inception on March 1, 2021.
"Our phones have been ringing off the hook, so we've been busy collecting all the information of the several thousand seniors that we need to help over the course of the next month," she said.
British PM Boris Johnson says he wants a deal with G7 on vaccine passports
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to be the host leader for a big G7 meeting in Cornwall in less than two weeks, and he told CBC News he'd like to see a vaccine certification regime, or vaccine passport, as just one part of an international pandemic preparedness treaty.
"We need to have agreements on issues such as vaccine passports, COVID status certification and the rest," Johnson told CBC News chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton in an interview first broadcast in its entirety on Sunday.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in January appeared cool to the idea of vaccine passports in an interview with Reuters, but a consensus for some kind of documentation has appeared to emerge among European leaders since.
There are also large issues at stake, Johnson said, in terms of strengthening alliances worldwide to prevent this coronavirus pandemic from lingering, and in helping prepare for future events that have international ramifications.
"It was a terrible year for believers in global co-operation because the world simply became balkanized and everybody was, it was sauve qui peut," he said, using the French phrase that roughly translates to "every man for themselves."
"Everybody hung on to their stocks of PPE, of protective equipment," added Johnson.
The British leader said he didn't want to see history repeat itself with respect to vaccines. Canada, the U.K. and other privileged countries need to share doses with developing countries as quickly as possible.
"Nobody is safe until everybody is safe," Johnson said. "What we want the G7 to try to agree to is that instead of vaccinating the whole world by 2024 or 2025, which is … what we'd achieve on the current timetable, we need to get this done by the end of next year, by 2022."
Johnson said he would work with the G7 and Canada to ensure the vaccine-sharing initiative COVAX is fully funded and its efforts to distribute vaccines are accelerated.
Cancelled road tests, looming backlog leaving would-be Ontario drivers feeling frustrated
Chuck Berry sang of the joyful pleasure of "ridin' along in my automobile" in No Particular Place To Go, but many Ontario driving aspirants have been limited in their ability to make essential trips, let alone cruise idly with a date.
Nearly 400,000 road tests have been cancelled in Ontario since the start of the pandemic, with more than half of those cancellations in the Greater Toronto Area alone, and it's making life difficult for students, newcomers and many others who need a licence.
While student drivers can still get their learner's permits, they can't drive by themselves until passing a G2 road test. Others are stuck paying higher insurance rates or shut out from jobs requiring a full licence.
As the only driver in her family with any kind of licence, Megan Dy wants to expand her employment prospects and also help shave an hour off her mom's long commute to work from their Scarborough neighbourhood. Dy's G2 road test is currently set for Aug. 3, but the last three were all cancelled.
"People are getting their first vaccination, so I'm still hopeful, but cautiously, I suppose," she said. "I just don't want to get my heart broken again."
In a normal year, instructor Azhar Malik says at least 800 students from his school in Richmond Hill would get their driver's licence. During the two months that Top Choice Driving School was able to operate during the pandemic, he estimates only 80 students got their licence.
Malik estimates the road test backlog might not be cleared until 2022 — depending on how many examiners the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) hires and how they accommodate students.
In January, MTO announced it was hiring 84 new drive-test examiners to help clear the backlog, but only 35 examiners have been hired so far.
Drive test centres are tentatively slated to open June 14 under Step 1 of Ontario's roadmap for reopening, but patience will likely be the key word for those looking to book road tests.
Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data.
With at least 1 American-Canadian matchup guaranteed, Ottawa and the NHL try to hammer out travel exemption
The federal government is poised to approve a travel exemption for the Stanley Cup playoffs that would allow U.S. teams to enter Canada if they adhere to a strict regimen of daily COVID-19 testing and remain in a bubble that includes team hotels and the arena.
Federal sources told CBC News all provinces with Canadian teams still competing in the playoffs have signed off on the plan. It still needs the green light from federal health officials before it lands on the desk of federal Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino for final approval. CBC News is not naming the sources because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
If approved, this would mark the first time regular cross-border travel occurs in the NHL amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Last summer, the NHL concluded its season with hubs in Toronto and Edmonton, with all U.S. teams crossing the border just once before departing.
In addition, Canadian teams in North America's top baseball, basketball and soccer leagues have been forced to play home games at various American venues because of the insurmountable obstacles involved in setting a league schedule with 14-day quarantine periods.
Because of the reconfiguring of the NHL's divisions this season as a result of the pandemic and the international border consideration, it is guaranteed that an American team will face a Canadian club in the third round of the playoffs, be it the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs or Winnipeg Jets.
Initial details of the potential travel exemption were first reported by TSN and The Canadian Press.
In an email to The Canadian Press, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said, "It's a work in progress."
Game 7 on Monday between Montreal and Toronto will feature a smattering of fans in Toronto's Scotiabank Arena, all health-care workers who've been invited. The Canadiens were able to win Game 6 in front of 2,500 fans in Montreal's Bell Centre after Quebec officials eased restrictions as case and hospitalization numbers have declined in the province, with a healthy percentage of adults having received at least one shot of a vaccine.
The Manitoba government has not made a pronouncement about fans attending future Jets games, a debatable proposition given the state of the province's current battle with the coronavirus.
Find out more about COVID-19
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With files from The Canadian Press