The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for May 29

The latest on the coronavirus outbreak from CBC News for Friday, May 29.


A Vancouver mural of Canada's Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam was taken down and stored for safe keeping after this shop reopened for business. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

What the COVID-19 employment crisis tells us about the future of work

The job losses associated with the COVID-19 crisis highlight the need for Canada to prepare for unexpected shocks to the labour market and develop a workforce with skills that will be prized across a range of industries, futurists and economists say. More than three million Canadians lost their jobs in March and April as public health restrictions shut down the economy. The losses were staggering, writes CBC's Brandie Weikle, given Canada added 245,000 jobs in the 12 months ending in February — a robust period of job opportunity that saw record-low unemployment.

This sudden reversal of fortune shows that preparing Canadians for an unpredictable future work landscape has to be a priority, said the authors of a new report out Friday. Ahead by a Decade is the final forecast to come out of an initiative called Employment in 2030, the result of an 18-month research and analysis project by the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship, a non-partisan policy institute housed at Toronto's Ryerson University. The research — done using a combination of strategic forecasting, artificial intelligence and expert panels held across the country — was conducted prior to the pandemic. But its lessons about building a resilient workforce are only more relevant now, said Sarah Doyle, the institute's director of policy and research.

The report says one-third of Canadian workers are in occupations with "a high probability of change." It says policy responses — such as retraining programs and adapted school curricula — are needed now to increase resilience across Canada's workforce. Economist Steven Tobin, the executive director of the Ottawa-based Labour Market Information Council, said the 2008-2009 financial crisis may be helping to inform policy now. "When I think about 2008-2009, obviously one big mechanism for promoting recovery was around infrastructure investment," said Tobin, who served as an advisory committee member for Employment in 2030 and is familiar with the report. "But we need to be mindful that many of the people who have lost their jobs in the past few months in Canada might not be in a position to benefit from infrastructure-related jobs." For example, people who lost jobs in hospitality and tourism, hard hit by the crisis, may not have an easy transition to building bridges or subway tunnels, he said.

The potential difficulty of making such a transition underscores the value of five foundational skills identified in the report — service orientation, instructing, persuasion, fluency of ideas and memorization — that are expected to help workers remain resilient as the labour market evolves. Lead author Diana Rivera said the research digs into the skill composition of occupations projected to grow in their share of employment by 2030. The forecast found that jobs that are service-oriented, creative or highly technical are likely to grow in importance, driven largely by flexible cognitive and social skills and abilities — the kind you can't outsource to a machine. The flip side is that jobs in resource extraction and manufacturing may decline in employment share because of trends like resource scarcity and automation, it said.

Brendon Bernard, economist for job website Indeed Canada based in Toronto, said in general, health-care jobs have held up better than other sectors during the shutdown. And given people have been more likely to stay employed if their jobs can be done from home — 3.3 million more people are working from home than usual, according to Statistics Canada — interest in remote work is up. A.R. Elangovan, a professor of organizational behaviour at the University of Victoria's Gustavson School of Business, said he expects workplaces to continue a shift toward more remote workers in the immediate aftermath of the crisis — but some sectors, by their very nature, may not have that ability. "The arts and entertainment, recreation, hospitality, tourism — those sectors will take the longest to recover because they all depend on the physical presence of people and the gathering of people," Elangovan said.

Click below to watch more from The National

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed what happens when you buy or sell a house. Andrew Chang walks through what’s changed in the real estate game. 1:48


Doctor linked to New Brunswick COVID-19 cases suspended, 2 patients in ICU

The doctor linked to five other cases of COVID-19 in northern New Brunswick and who may have exposed at least 150 other people to the coronavirus has been suspended, said Gilles Lanteigne, the president and CEO of the Vitalité Health Network. The doctor, who is in his 50s, caught the virus when he recently travelled to Quebec. He then returned to work at the Campbellton Regional Hospital without self-isolating for the mandatory 14 days; two of the confirmed cases involve health-care workers.

Two of the eight people in the Campbellton region who have tested positive for COVID-19 are now in intensive care, Lanteigne said this morning. Both patients are in stable condition, according to Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell. Contact tracing shows people living outside the Campbellton region are in the circle of transmission, Russell told reporters during a news conference in Fredericton. So the virus "could easily spread to other regions," she said, urging people across the province to continue to be vigilant. Russell told CBC News Network this morning it's a "rapidly evolving situation" and there could be an "exponential rise in the number of cases very quickly."

Until last week, New Brunswick had no active cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. All 120 people infected since the pandemic began in March had recovered. With two of the six cases being health-care workers, Russell said "this can be very widespread." COVID-19 testing is being offered to anyone in the Campbellton region who wants it, starting today; there are about 25,000 people in the region, also known as health Zone 5. On Wednesday, Premier Blaine Higgs described the person's actions as "irresponsible."

Read more about what's happening in New Brunswick

Trudeau says government looking at how to reunite families separated by border closure

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government is looking at how to reunite some families separated by the temporary COVID-19 measures at the Canada-U.S. border. Canada and the U.S. have temporarily closed the border to non-essential travel while keeping it open to commercial traffic and essential workers who cross for work, in a bid to slow the virus's spread. A number of stories have emerged in the past few weeks of families stuck on opposite sides of the border, including expectant parents.

Already, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs is voicing his concerns. Higgs, whose province had appeared to have COVID-19 under control after a stretch of days with no new cases but is now going through a new flare-up, said the issue was raised during Thursday night's weekly call with the prime minister and the premiers. The Canada-U.S. border deal was first agreed to in March and has been extended until June 21, but Higgs said Thursday night's call suggests something is in the works for families sooner than that. "That concerns me with our borders here with Maine," he said. "If you think of us being six to seven hours from Boston and 10 hours from New York City, it's just how widespread is this?"

The border remains under federal jurisdiction, but Higgs said he hopes Ottawa listens to the provinces' concerns. Trudeau said he'll continue to discuss changes at the border with premiers. "There are a number of premiers who feel that, for reasons of compassion, we should and could move forward with this measure. There are others that expressed a certain amount of concern about it," the prime minister said. "We will continue to engage with them. We will continue to look into this matter and ensure that no matter what we do, we are keeping the safety and well-being of Canadians at the forefront of any decision."

Read more about the border situation

Canada extends large cruise ship ban until end of October to limit COVID-19 spread

Large cruise ships won't be able to dock at any of Canada's ports until at least the fall as the federal government extended its safety measure to limit the number of cases of the novel coronavirus in Canada. Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced the extension this morning, saying cruise ships with overnight accommodations carrying more than 100 people will be prohibited from operating in Canadian waters until Oct. 31. All other passenger vessels will have to follow regional health authority rules when it comes to timelines, said Garneau.

Beginning July 1, passenger vessels will be allowed to operate in inland rivers and lakes in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon, but vessels with the capacity to carry more than 12 people continue to be banned from entering Arctic coastal waters until the end of October, Garneau said. A number of cruise ships were the site of COVID-19 outbreaks at the start of the crisis, prompting health officials, including Canada's chief public health officer, to warn against taking trips. Transport Canada also said ferries and water taxis should continue to operate using mitigation measures like reducing the number of passengers and keeping people in their vehicles.

The announcement dealt a significant blow to Nova Scotia's cruise ship season. Economic impact studies done by the Halifax Port Authority show the cruise ship industry brings in about $165 million a year to Halifax and the surrounding area. "That is an amount the region will not be able to capitalize on this year," port spokesperson Lane Farguson said. The port authority makes money from their three main lines of business: cargo, cruise and real estate, Farguson said. "When you take one of those out of the mix, there's no question there will be a hit," he said. While the majority of Halifax's port's revenue comes from its cargo operations, it's a different story at the Port of Sydney, N.S., where much of its revenue comes from the cruise industry.

Read more about the ban


How B.C. handled COVID-19 in long-term care homes while Ontario, Quebec face disaster

As COVID-19 continues to sweep through long-term care facilities, Ontario and Quebec are struggling hard to contain outbreaks — while British Columbia and other provinces have managed to keep infections under control. Experts say that's because B.C. took swift, coordinated and decisive actions to stop the transmission of the virus; there have been 111 deaths in long-term care facilities in B.C., including hospitals, compared to more than 2,500 in Quebec and 1,500 in Ontario.

Pat Armstrong, a sociology professor at York University who led the 10-year international project Re-imagining Long-term Residential Care, said one important way B.C. limited the spread of the virus was by taking over staffing — ordering that personal support workers each work in only one facility, instead of multiple locations. Wages were boosted to compensate for the loss of second jobs. "They've had fewer deaths and fewer outbreaks, I think primarily because they acted so quickly and in the way they did to take over the employment of these people in long-term care. And they stopped extra people from coming into the homes. That was another factor," Armstrong said.

Jennifer Baumbusch, a nursing professor at the University of British Columbia, said B.C. fared better than other provinces because government and health officials acted quickly to mobilize resources to control infection and support staff. Instead of each home in B.C. being left to procure its own protective supplies, a centralized service run by the non-profit SafeCareBC has been collecting and distributing personal protective equipment. Baumbusch said that was "absolutely key" to stopping the spread of the virus; in other provinces, gaps in protective gear supplies led to higher rates of infection. Requiring staff to work at a single site also helped to limit the spread, Baumbusch said. She welcomed the province's recent announcement that legislation will make that policy permanent.


WestJet 'ninjas' stealthily deliver presents to delight homebound colleagues

Have you been ninja'd? The popular trend is now taking off with WestJet staffers grounded because of a massive industry slow down. 1:57

WestJet employees have found a generous — and stealthy — way to stay connected to their colleagues and cheer each other up during the pandemic. Almost 2,500 WestJet pilots, flight attendants and office workers are part of a Facebook group where they can register to have presents dropped off randomly by co-workers.

But it's no ordinary delivery — the gift-givers dress as ninjas who sneak through neighbourhoods, ring doorbells and then immediately run away. "Since WestJet hasn't been operating normally, WestJetters like us who stay at home have found a way to stick together, have fun, support and inspire each other," said Terence Lelis, who is featured in the video alongside his wife, Frances.

The idea was inspired by Alberta Wine Ninjas — a wine-delivering initiative that started as a joke between two friends and became a private Facebook group that is 50,000 strong after just a few weeks.

Read the full story about the 'ninja' deliveries

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

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