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The pandemic paradox: Canadians asked to go out and face threat that kept them inside for weeks
For almost eight weeks, Canadians have been sheltering against an invisible threat, a virus so dangerous we had to stay inside. But across Canada, governments are beginning to ease social restrictions, even though many people are still worried about catching the novel coronavirus.
As CBC science correspondent Kelly Crowe writes, it's a pandemic paradox: The nasty pathogen that drove us inside is still spreading — but now we're told it's time to go out and face the risk.
This should not come as a complete surprise. The physical distancing policies were aimed at protecting hospitals, not individuals. The goal was to keep everyone from getting sick all at once — a population-wide policy intended to slow the spread. And it worked.
Watch | Anxiety surrounds returning to work during pandemic
"The first priority was that we didn't flood the hospitals," said Katherine Lippel, a civil law professor at the University of Ottawa. "That was a collective response for a collective need."
Now, with governments starting to loosen restrictions, labour lawyers are suddenly in demand to answer questions about whether facing the risk of COVID-19 qualifies as unsafe work.
"There are definitely some elevated risks for people returning to work," said Alison Thompson, a University of Toronto associate professor who studies public health ethics. "Certainly employers have an obligation to make sure their workplaces are safe."
The return to the new COVID-19 "normal" will force some people to make risk calculations they've never before considered, including the disturbing realization that by returning to work they could be putting vulnerable family members in harm's way. There's also the unpleasant possibility of being forced to reveal personal medical information to an employer in order to be granted a chance to work from home.
"There are a whole bunch of people who have health conditions who would suddenly have to go public," said Richard Gold, a law professor at McGill University. He believes there is the potential for a form of labour anarchy, where people simply opt out until they know more about the risks and their rights. Read more on this story here.
Game changer: nurse portrayed as superhero in new Banksy artwork
Street artist Banksy created this artwork, called Game Changer, as an appreciation for the U.K.'s National Health Service. It shows a boy playing with a nurse superhero toy with figures of Batman and Spiderman discarded in a basket on the floor. The work is on display at Southampton General Hospital in Britain until after the lockdown ends and will then be auctioned for NHS charities. Read more about Banksy's coronavirus-inspired artworks here.
Canadians forced to spend days trying to get through on Service Canada's designated phone line to sort out problems with their employment insurance applications are sharing tips through social media and web forums — including a link to an online form that can get an agent to call back within 48 hours. But government officials warn that if the number of people using that fast-track form increases substantially, the system will not be able to manage the volume — meaning longer waits for a call back, or perhaps no call back at all. Read more about frustrated EI applicants' way around overwhelmed call centres.
So-called granny cams are increasingly used by families to keep an eye on their loved ones in long-term care homes. That's especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic when in-person visits aren't possible. But some homes worry the cameras expose them to legal risk and have been hesitant to allow ones that record audio. The concern in some long-term care homes is that if the resident leaves the room, there is the potential for the camera to record two people who enter the room without their consent, which, they fear, could violate the law around recording private conversations. Read more about the debate over the cameras.
Watch | Daughter fights to put camera in mother's long-term care room
The grocery industry is highly competitive and has been moving online for some time, but it now appears the competition will be intensifying further. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, new entrants to the market are looking to help Canadian shoppers buy from the safety of their homes. Toronto entrepreneur Frank Sinopoli has just launched Grocery Neighbour, a fleet of trucks that will each operate like a supermarket on wheels. Meanwhile, Sysco, one of the country's biggest distributors of food products to restaurants and hotels, has started to offer delivery to regular households. Even farmers markets are rushing to fulfil demand in a new way, signing up with a three-year-old Canadian e-commerce platform called Local Line. Read more about the changes in the grocery business here.
International students — typically charged at least double the tuition paid by domestic students — have become a vital part of Canada's post-secondary system. But with closed campuses and borders threatening new enrolment and schools anticipating significant budget cuts, Canadian universities and colleges are bracing for rough semesters ahead. What happens with international students is a definite concern, as they represent about 50 per cent, on average, of total tuition revenue, says Universities Canada president Paul Davidson. Read more about the situation post-secondary institutions are facing.
Vilnius, the capital of the Baltic nation of Lithuania, has created a giant "outdoor café" so its restaurants, bars and eateries can safely reopen. For the first time, all of restaurateur Eimantas Lumpickas's tables are outside — some on the sidewalk, and others 40 metres down the street in the new outdoor café. As CBC correspondent Chris Brown writes, Lumpickas is relieved to finally have customers to serve again. Read more here about the outdoor café concept, and why it might get some attention in Canada.
We're breaking down what you need to know about the pandemic by answering your questions. You can send us your questions via email at COVID@cbc.ca and we'll answer as many as we can. Pat H. is curious if trying on clothing will be safe. We don't have a definitive answer, but we spoke to a couple of infectious diseases specialists who helped us understand the risks of retail shopping. "People who want to try on clothes in a store should follow general principles intended to reduce the risk of exposure," says Dr. Matthew Oughton, infectious diseases specialist at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal. This includes not trying on clothing if you are sick or have COVID-19 symptoms, following all store policies in place, and practising good hand hygiene before and after trying on clothing. Oughton also says you could consider washing your clothing in a washing machine after purchase. Read more from our Q&A here.
Now for some good news to start your Thursday: At some Little Free Libraries in Sudbury, Ont., you can now find more than just books. The outdoor cupboards have cropped up in many communities over the last number of years, welcoming people to take a book, or leave books for others. Several Sudbury locations are now stocked with bags of seeds — meant for anyone interested in growing their own food amid the pandemic. The idea of distributing seed starter kits first arose after news that community gardens had not been declared essential by the Ontario government and could not open — a decision that was recently reversed. Rachelle Rocha, a volunteer with the Sudbury Community Garden Network, the group behind the kits, says the response has been overwhelming. Read more about the seed kits here.
Front Burner: Inside North America's largest single coronavirus outbreak
North America's largest single coronavirus outbreak started at Cargill, a meat-packing plant located in High River, Alta. Over 1,500 cases have been linked to it, with 949 employees testing positive, and one death. Despite the harrowing statistics, the plant reopened this week. Today on Front Burner, CBC reporter Carolyn Dunn on what led to the outbreak, and why there's such a push to keep the plant open.
Today in history: May 7
1893: Longtime NHL executive Frank J. Selke is born in Kitchener, Ont. After helping build the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team in the 1930s and '40s, Selke managed six Stanley Cup-winning Montreal Canadiens teams between 1953 and 1960.
1920: The first exhibition of the Group of Seven goes on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. The seven artists were Franklin Carmichael, Lawren Harris, A.Y. Jackson, Franz Johnston, Arthur Lismer, J.E.H. MacDonald and Frederick Varley. Initial reviews were favourable, but only three of the more than 100 works were purchased.
1945: Germany surrenders unconditionally to western Allies and Russians at 2:41 p.m. French time at Gen. Dwight Eisenhower's headquarters in a schoolhouse in Reims, France.
1998: Chrysler announces it is merging with Germany's Daimler Benz in a $40 billion stock deal to become DaimlerChrysler AG.
2012: British Columbia formally apologizes to the Japanese Canadian community for the internment of thousands of people during the Second World War. Over 22,000 Japanese-Canadians were placed in internment camps in B.C. and across Western Canada.
With files from The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and Reuters