Canada·Coronavirus brief

The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Sept. 7

The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Sept. 7.
A medical staff member takes a sample from a man for a rapid antigen test for the novel coronavirus at a temporary test centre in a school in New Delhi on Sept. 6. (Prakash Singh/AFP via Getty Images)

The future of school may be outdoors, even after the pandemic 

COVID-19 is pushing students outside to learn, and some say it could improve education even after the pandemic has passed. At Guelph Outdoor School in Guelph, Ont., the fresh air that's seen as a way to lower the risk of coronavirus transmission is pushing parents to enrol their children in the full-day programs at an unprecedented rate. "The phone is [ringing] off the hook and I can't even keep track," Chris Green, a former classroom teacher who started the outdoor school eight years ago, told CBC News. He and his team have added seven new programs this year, all popular, and even a full-time option offered with a local Montessori school.

Parents who were already converts to the school's belief in the educational and developmental value of learning outdoors are now thinking about the health benefits, too. Cheryl Cadogen's 13-year-old son, David, won't be returning to regular classes because Cheryl's partner is immunocompromised. Instead, David will take his Grade 8 classes online while spending a few days a week at the outdoor school. The benefits of being outside during a pandemic are clearer if you think of a smoker — an example given by Virginia Tech's Dr. Linsey Marr, who studies how viruses spread through the air. Outside, the smoke dissipates quickly, but inside it's "trapped." Masks, physical distancing and good ventilation can all help indoors, but Marr says she would seize upon "any opportunity that there is to move an activity outdoors."

Canada's largest school board is pushing teachers to literally think outside the box. The Toronto District School Board is encouraging students to take classes outside whenever possible, says David Hawker-Budlovsky, the board's central co-ordinating principal for outdoor education. That could include scheduling time in the schoolyard or using the community as a classroom. Students could be taught about climate change in a nearby ravine or learn about local history while walking around the neighbourhood. "I think what's really important is to be able to look at this [with] an open mind. Be creative and be as flexible as possible," he said.

As for Canadian winters, an expert on outdoor learning says: "There is no bad weather. There are just bad clothes." Pamela Gibson, a former teacher who now consults on sustainability and outdoor education, said even a tree can be a math lesson, a science lesson or an arts lesson, bad weather or not. Holding classes outside in the community is not only possible, she said, but crucial. Curriculum is "supposed to be what children need to function in the world, not just inside the building [and] not just inside their homes."

The National's feature about outdoor schooling will air tonight at 9 p.m. ET on CBC News Network and at 10 p.m. local time on your CBC television station, or you can watch The National online on CBC Gem.

Click below to watch more from The National

COVID-19 expected to spike after Labour Day long weekend

1 year ago
Canadians are enjoying the last summer long weekend, but not all of them are abiding by COVID-19 safety protocols, especially young people. Experts predict a spike in cases following Labour Day gatherings. 3:21


Office work hasn't been returning to the office. Will it stay home forever?

Just a fraction of people working at home during the pandemic have returned to their offices, a change that could permanently influence how workplaces are run, where workers live and whether office-adjacent businesses can survive, CBC's Brandie Weikle writes. Almost three-quarters of the 3.4 million Canadians who began working from home when the crisis started were still working remotely in August, Statistics Canada reported Friday. And a survey by Maru/Blue on behalf of ADP Canada suggests that many employees would like the trend to continue. The research found 45 per cent of respondents wanted to work remotely at least three days a week, while another 15 per cent would like to one or two days weekly.

The survey also suggested that workers under 34 are most convinced the change will be permanent. Sandy Magat, who started at Vancouver-based just as the pandemic started, has been at work in her office for one day. She prefers working from home, even though going to the office is possible. "I'm pretty happy working from home, being able to squeeze in a workout, catch up with a friend or run an errand," she said. "In general, I just feel like I'm taking better care of myself. I'm eating more consistent meals.... I feel like I'm focused more on my health and wellness because you have more control over that in your own space." Magat also notes she's spending less and, obviously, has no commuting time.

Darren Fleming, CEO of commercial real estate company Real Strategy in Ottawa, said the sea change underway will have profound effects on the "ecosystem" of businesses that surround office buildings. "It means the barbershop that only did business with office tenants during 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, suddenly may not have anybody to cut hair with," he said. "We're already seeing a shift to people moving to the suburbs and residential, because if they're going to be working from home ... maybe they're going to need a second bedroom. I think it's a little bit early to say. But fundamentally, I think there's been a change in the way we work. And it's going to be very interesting."

Read more about the survey results here.

Filmmakers relying on virtual world to build buzz at TIFF

With COVID-19 rattling the entire film circuit, resulting in a trimmed Toronto International Film Festival slate that's mostly online, the industry is looking for new ways to build momentum, The Canadian Press reports. The festival's 45th edition is banking on virtual offerings and a smattering of indoor/outdoor screenings to recreate the semblance of a traditional festival rollout. TIFF will screen films for the public across Canada on its online platform, Bell Digital Cinema, as well as its downtown TIFF Bell Lightbox headquarters, two drive-ins and an open-air cinema. Only 50 guests are allowed in indoor cinemas, and patrons must wear masks unless seated in the theatre.

Screening films online and to physically distanced audiences is better than skipping the festival circuit entirely, said Laurie May, co-president of the Canadian film distribution company Elevation Pictures. "I think it's making the best of a bad situation and trying to keep everything moving forward," she said. "And I don't think this is the new world order. I think this is accommodating a difficult time and hoping to get back to normal." TIFF will have an online industry festival, so international delegates will still be able to conduct business. May said she participated in the Cannes Film Festival's virtual market in June and it was a good business. She'd still prefer to pay for the flight to France. "You lose talking to the other filmmakers," she said. "This is a creative industry. You can't do it sitting at your home Zooming."

The event won't have the same level of excitement and fanfare it usually does amid splashy parties and galas. Most of the film talent won't be at TIFF because of border restrictions, although many will be online in cast reunions, interactive talks and Q&As, some of which will be available worldwide for free. TIFF also has a slew of celebrity ambassadors who will interact with audiences and industry delegates online. Stars will also be seen in the pre-recorded TIFF Tribute Awards.

Read more about TIFF's approach here.

N.L. woman accosted with anti-Chinese racism for 3rd time during pandemic 

The first time Ting-ting Chen experienced racism in Newfoundland and Labrador, she said, it shocked her. The second time, it scared her, forcing her inside for a month for fear of what people might say or think about her. The third time, it made her angry. "I don't want to see this small percentage of people destroy the beauty of Newfoundland," Chen told CBC News.

In the most recent incident, the PhD student from China said she was called a pig and a dog-eater during a confrontation with two teenagers on a popular walking trail in St. John's. She snapped a picture as the children ran away on Friday. Chen, who is studying Newfoundland folklore at Memorial University, has had "Virus!" yelled at her from a car. In a separate incident, a man yelled at her to "Go back to China." Finally, the two teenaged boys made squinted eyes at her and spewed lewd nonsense in her direction. "Racist ideas have already poisoned our young generations like that," she said. "I was astonished."

Chen said most of the province's people have treated her well, but decided after the latest incident that it was time to speak out and address racism head-on. "I have been here two years, and I can hardly imagine I would have suffered this two years ago, before the pandemic," she said. "I think the pandemic has just become an impetus for the racism here to be thriving and rise up, and that really saddens my heart." Her story is not unique. In a recent video, well-known brewery owner Dave Fong was accosted by a woman outside his St. John's home to "go back where you came from." Fong's family has been in Newfoundland and Labrador since the 1890s. A woman is facing a criminal harassment charge in relation to the incident.

Read more about Chen's story here.

Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data 


Sinovac says it coronavirus vaccine candidate appears to be safe in elderly people 

Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech Ltd. said on Monday its coronavirus vaccine appeared to be safe for older people, according to preliminary results from an early to mid-stage trial, Reuters reports, while the immune responses triggered by the vaccine were slightly weaker than for younger adults.

Health officials have been concerned about whether experimental vaccines could safely protect the elderly, whose immune systems usually react less robustly to vaccines, against the virus that has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide. Sinovac's candidate CoronaVac did not cause severe side-effects in combined Phase 1 and Phase 2 trials launched in May involving 421 participants aged at least 60, Liu Peicheng, Sinovac's media representative, said.

The World Health Organization is working with China on requirements for international approval of any Chinese COVID-19 vaccine, a senior official said on Monday. "WHO's office in China and WHO headquarters has been working with the regulatory authorities in China," assistant director-general Mariangela Simao told a briefing in Geneva. "We are in direct contact. We have been sharing information and the requirements for international approval of vaccines." Four of the world's eight vaccines that are in the third phase of trials are from China.


She was in China, he was in Canada. This couple reunited after being separated for 9 months because of COVID-19 

A very happy Kiera and Kevin Norris pose after reuniting on Sunday. (Robert Krbavac/CBC)

Every three weeks for months, Kiera Norris would pack her bags, board a train to Beijing Capital International Airport, and hope against hope that she would be able to board a plane to take her home to her husband, Kevin. But nine times her flight was cancelled amid COVID-19, which meant she remained more than 9,700 kilometres from Windsor, Ont., and her husband of 10 years. "You know those couples that enjoy their time apart?" Kevin Norris told CBC News. "We're not like that."

The couple runs a small business together, which is what takes them to China every year. Kiera arrived on Jan. 10, with Kevin planning to arrive two weeks later. But when COVID-19 hit, the pair knew they were in trouble. They usually spend every moment together, often hiking and biking. So instead of the great outdoors, they made do with Facetime and Skype. "Our life is more and more perfect, more hopeful, more meaningful and actually very happy every day [we] see each other," said Kiera, who has family south of Beijing.

The Norrises were finally reunited Sunday at Toronto Pearson International Airport. When they saw each other, the couple shared a long embrace, mumbling words of affection. Asked how they were feeling, they summed it up in one word: "incredible."

Read more about their story here.

Find out more about COVID-19

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With files from CBC News, The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and Reuters