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Premiers’ demands for long-term health funding increase takes back seat to COVID-19

JOAN BRYDEN, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Dec 10th, 2020

A first ministers meeting Thursday that was supposed to be devoted to long-term, federal health care funding  seems destined to be taken over by a more urgent priority: surviving the COVID-19 pandemic.

Premiers asked for the meeting in September and wanted it focused exclusively on their unanimous demand that Ottawa add at least $28 billion a year to its annual health transfer payment to provinces and territories.

But while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s willing to discuss the issue, he has been clear that getting through the pandemic is more pressing, as far as he’s concerned.

As host of the daylong meeting, he’s scheduled the first half to focus on the rollout of vaccines to inoculate Canadians against COVID-19, the first of which is slated to begin delivery next week.

The second half of the meeting, to be conducted via teleconference, will be devoted to health care funding and improving health care in general.

On Wednesday, premiers were scaling back expectations, saying it will take multiple meetings to come to any resolution on health transfers.

Ontario’s Doug Ford is hoping to persuade Trudeau to commit to a resolution in time for increased funding to be included in the next federal budget.

The premiers’ demand for more health care cash comes as the federal government is facing an unprecedented deficit approaching $400 billion, with more billions yet to be doled out to help Canadians weather the pandemic and the shattered economy to eventually bounce back.

So premiers can hardly be surprised that Trudeau doesn’t seem in any rush to deal with their decades-long complaint that Ottawa is not paying its fair share of annual health care costs.

The federal government this year will transfer to the provinces nearly $42 billion for health care, under an arrangement that sees the transfer increase by at least three per cent each year.

But the premiers contend that amounts to only 22 per cent of the actual cost of delivering health care and doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about six per cent.

They want Ottawa to increase its share to 35 per cent and maintain it at that level, which would mean an added $28 billion this year, rising by roughly another $4 billion in each subsequent year.


RELATED: PM, premiers, to discuss additional health spending


In calculating the federal share, the premiers include only the cash transfers they get from Ottawa. They do not include the billions in tax transfers they also get — essentially tax room vacated by the feds so that provinces and territories can increase their taxes to help pay for health care.

In a 2008 report, the auditor general of Canada pegged the value of the tax transfer for health care at $12.6 billion.

Nor do the premiers include any of the money the federal government has transferred to them specifically to combat the COVID-19 health crisis.

On top of the annual transfer this year, the federal government has given the provinces an extra $19 billion to help them cope with the fallout from the pandemic, including more than $10 billion specifically for pandemic-related health-care costs.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland promised $1 billion more for long-term care homes, which have been hardest hit by the pandemic, in her fiscal update last month.

The federal government has also spent billions purchasing personal protective equipment, rapid testing kits and lining up purchases of potential vaccine candidates.

Trudeau has noted repeatedly that Ottawa has footed the bill for 80 per cent of all the money spent by governments in Canada to fight COVID-19.

But the premiers say all that extra money is one-off; what they need is an increase in annual health transfers to ensure stable, predictable, long-term funding.

The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Dec 10th, 2020

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Thursday Dec. 10, 2020.

There are 435,330 confirmed cases in Canada.

_ Canada: 435,330 confirmed cases (72,336 active, 350,011 resolved, 12,983 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers.

There were 6,295 new cases Wednesday from 78,579 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 8.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 192.44 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 45,555 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 6,508.

There were 116 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 658 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 94. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.25 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 34.54 per 100,000 people.

There have been 12,226,406 tests completed.

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 353 confirmed cases (20 active, 329 resolved, four deaths).

There was one new case Wednesday from 366 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.27 per cent. The rate of active cases is 3.83 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 13 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.77 per 100,000 people.

There have been 65,333 tests completed.

_ Prince Edward Island: 84 confirmed cases (13 active, 71 resolved, zero deaths).

There were zero new cases Wednesday from 1,311 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 8.28 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 12 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.

There have been 66,023 tests completed.

_ Nova Scotia: 1,389 confirmed cases (71 active, 1,253 resolved, 65 deaths).

There were six new cases Wednesday from 1,173 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.51 per cent. The rate of active cases is 7.31 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 57 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is eight.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.69 per 100,000 people.

There have been 156,311 tests completed.

_ New Brunswick: 542 confirmed cases (74 active, 461 resolved, seven deaths).

There was one new case Wednesday from 599 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.17 per cent. The rate of active cases is 9.53 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 28 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.9 per 100,000 people.

There have been 106,933 tests completed.

_ Quebec: 156,468 confirmed cases (15,427 active, 133,692 resolved, 7,349 deaths).

There were 1,728 new cases Wednesday from 10,169 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 17 per cent. The rate of active cases is 181.82 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 11,406 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,629.

There were 36 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 224 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 32. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.38 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 86.61 per 100,000 people.

There have been 2,280,376 tests completed.

_ Ontario: 132,800 confirmed cases (16,089 active, 112,875 resolved, 3,836 deaths).

There were 1,890 new cases Wednesday from 46,958 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 4.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 110.45 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 12,878 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,840.

There were 28 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 138 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 20. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.14 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 26.33 per 100,000 people.

There have been 6,494,774 tests completed.

_ Manitoba: 19,655 confirmed cases (5,348 active, 13,869 resolved, 438 deaths).

There were 279 new cases Wednesday from 2,296 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 12 per cent. The rate of active cases is 390.52 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,271 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 324.

There were 18 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 96 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 14. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is one per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 31.98 per 100,000 people.

There have been 369,004 tests completed.

_ Saskatchewan: 10,899 confirmed cases (4,707 active, 6,121 resolved, 71 deaths).

There were 302 new cases Wednesday from 1,240 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 24 per cent. The rate of active cases is 400.78 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,917 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 274.

There were five new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 18 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is three. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.22 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 6.05 per 100,000 people.

There have been 275,704 tests completed.

_ Alberta: 73,488 confirmed cases (20,199 active, 52,636 resolved, 653 deaths).

There were 1,460 new cases Wednesday from 6,551 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 22 per cent. The rate of active cases is 462.08 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 12,319 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,760.

There were 13 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 92 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 13. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.3 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 14.94 per 100,000 people.

There have been 1,541,334 tests completed.

_ British Columbia: 39,337 confirmed cases (10,330 active, 28,448 resolved, 559 deaths).

There were 619 new cases Wednesday from 7,723 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 8.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 203.69 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 4,609 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 658.

There were 16 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 90 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 13. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.25 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 11.02 per 100,000 people.

There have been 853,460 tests completed.

_ Yukon: 58 confirmed cases (10 active, 47 resolved, one deaths).

There were zero new cases Wednesday from 66 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 24.48 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of nine new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.45 per 100,000 people.

There have been 5,673 tests completed.

_ Northwest Territories: 15 confirmed cases (zero active, 15 resolved, zero deaths).

There were zero new cases Wednesday from 62 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.

There have been 6,691 tests completed.

_ Nunavut: 229 confirmed cases (48 active, 181 resolved, zero deaths).

There were nine new cases Wednesday from 65 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 14 per cent. The rate of active cases is 123.78 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 36 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is five.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.

There have been 4,714 tests completed.

This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Dec. 10, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Woman says she’d clean toilets to work at B.C. care home and see husband

CAMILLE BAINS, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Dec 10th, 2020

VANCOUVER — Lynne Smith’s daily visits to a long-term care home ended abruptly after a COVID-19 outbreak three weeks ago but she jumped at the chance to work at the facility that is hiring family members so she can see her husband.

“I felt so powerless and unhelpful. Laundry and being in dietary and being a housekeeper are not really my forte but I mean, I’ll do anything.” Smith said. “I’ll wash dishes, I’ll clean toilets.”

Smith’s husband, Derrick Smith, 72, has been living at Menno Place in Abbotsford, B.C., since February 2018 after moving there from another facility following a stroke and brain surgery.

Menno Place is recruiting residents’ families because so many employees have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in an outbreak that started on Nov. 17 after one resident became ill following treatment in hospital.

Smith said she’d visited her husband daily with their dog, Chester, even as they were forced to see each other through a window when visits were limited.

“I’ll do it for free. Just get me in there so I could help somebody,” said Smith, who had already been doing some of her husband’s laundry and cleaned his hearing aids and teeth.

Karen Biggs, CEO of Menno Place, said 31 residents and 21 staff had become ill on a unit that is home to 45 people but the care home began putting together a plan to hire families after the first few infections to avoid a staffing crisis that has hit other facilities.

“We’re getting very, very tight because staff are going off sick or they’re going off with pending swabs,” she said of those awaiting the results of COVID-19 tests.

The home’s director of human resources, the manager of housekeeping and laundry and the executive director of finance have come in on days off to work for staff who were sick or doing extra duties for patients confined to their rooms, Biggs said.

Menno Place had been trying to hire staff for months, she said.

“Because of the single-site order, it’s very, very hard to recruit people right now,” Biggs said of a policy by the provincial health officer for staff in care homes to work in only one facility to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading from place to place, as was the case earlier in the pandemic.

Biggs said 54 applicants, including residents’ grandchildren, had responded to a request on the facility’s website to work in laundry service, delivering food trays to rooms and doing housekeeping duties because of enhanced cleaning requirements during the outbreak.

Two people have so far been hired to do housekeeping, including a former care aide who once worked at Menno Place and whose mother is a resident at the facility, Biggs said, adding families in Alberta whose loved ones also live there have inquired about whether they’d need to quarantine for two weeks before starting work.

Residents’ families would get the same safety training offered to other employees around infection control and the use of personal protective equipment, she said.

The added bonus is those who work at the facility would get to see their loved one while cleaning their room, for example, but not having direct contact with them.

“I’d clean spotless If my mother was on the unit,” Biggs said.

Isobel Mackenzie, the advocate for seniors in British Columbia, said Menno Place seems to be the first long-term care facility in Canada to hire families.

The important role of families who help with everything from feeding to helping care for their loved ones has been acknowledged during the pandemic, she said, adding getting to see people while working at a care home may be the only hope for those who have been forced to stay away.

“I think Menno Place is showing a flexibility and ingenuity around how to get some extra hands in there quickly.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 10, 2020.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Five things to know about the rollout of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in Canada

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Dec 8th, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that a small number of the most vulnerable in Canada could get Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine before the holidays.

Here are five things to know about the vaccine’s rollout:

Who will get the vaccine first?

The Public Health Agency of Canada is overseeing the vaccine distribution to the provinces, but provincial governments decide who gets it and when, and puts in place the plan for that to happen.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunizations last week recommended priority be given to residents and workers in long-term care homes, front-line health workers, people over the age of 80 and adults living in Indigenous communities.

But, remote locations,  including northern Indigenous reserves, won’t be getting the Pfizer vaccine for now because of the need to keep it so cold before it is ready for use.

Health Canada approvals

Everything hinges on Health Canada approving the Pfizer vaccine, with a decision expected on that in the coming days.

Trudeau said that if approval comes by the end of the week, Canadians will begin getting vaccinated next week.

How much of the vaccine will Canada get?

Trudeau said Monday the contract with Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, was adjusted this week to reflect that up to 249,000 doses of their vaccine will be delivered to Canada before the end of December.

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey said he anticipates receiving 1,950 doses at the receiving site in St. John’s next week.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube said four shippers with about 4,000 doses are to go to Quebec next week, which will be distributed to long-term care homes and residential seniors’ homes first.

That would be enough to vaccinate about 2,000 people to start, with Dube saying more doses will arrive between Dec. 21 and Jan. 4, enough to vaccinate between 22,000 and 28,000 people.

Retired Gen. Rick Hiller, who is leading Ontario’s vaccine task force, said a very small number of doses would land in that province next week, but that he anticipates 2.4 million doses in the first three months of next year.

How will be the Pfizer vaccine be distributed?

Pfizer is shipping its doses from its manufacturing plant in Puurs, Belgium, directly to 14 receiving sites in each province that are equipped with at least one ultralow temperature freezer.

There are two delivery sites in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta, and one in each of the other six provinces. None of the early shipments are headed for the territories.

Canada and the provinces enacted a “dry run” Monday, with empty boxes shipped from Belgium to test Canada’s readiness.

Most provinces indicated they are ready now to receive the vaccine, including having ultralow temperature freezers set up at the receiving sites.

Temperature issues

Pfizer’s vaccine has to be kept frozen below -70 C until just before it is diluted to be injected into a patient.

The company has developed special thermal shipping boxes that can carry the doses, packed on dry ice, for up to 10 days.

The shippers can be used as temporary storage on sites where the vaccines are going to be injected as well. In between they must be stored in ultralow temperature freezers.

The vaccine can be kept in a refrigerator, at temperatures between 2 C and 8 C for up to five days, and then at room temperature for no more than two hours.

Each shipping box is equipped with a GPS-enabled thermal tracker to monitor the location and temperature during shipping.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2020.

The Canadian Press

COVID-19 has hit Canadian charities where it hurts

THE BIG STORY | posted Tuesday, Dec 8th, 2020

In today’s Big Story podcast, this is the time of year when Canadians traditionally up their giving. But a lot of that tends to happen in person. This year, Covid-19 has made that tough. And the big picture isn’t much better: In a year of economic hardship, fewer Canadians have money to spare for charity, and more Canadians than usual need the help these organizations provide.

How has the pandemic hit charities? What have they done to adjust to “these unprecedented times”? And how can Canadians who do have the means get their money where it needs to be for the holidays?

GUEST: Bruce MacDonald, President and CEO of Imagine Canada

You can subscribe to The Big Story podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle and Spotify.

You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Dec 8th, 2020

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020.

There are 423,054 confirmed cases in Canada.

_ Canada: 423,054 confirmed cases (71,542 active, 338,735 resolved, 12,777 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers.

There were 6,499 new cases Monday from 91,974 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 7.1 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 44,915 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 6,416.

There were 84 new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 647 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 92. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.25 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 33.99 per 100,000 people.

There have been 12,069,537 tests completed.

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 351 confirmed cases (28 active, 319 resolved, four deaths).

There were zero new cases Monday from 243 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 13 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.77 per 100,000 people.

There have been 64,611 tests completed.

_ Prince Edward Island: 84 confirmed cases (14 active, 70 resolved, zero deaths).

There were four new cases Monday from 719 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.56 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 12 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.

There have been 63,831 tests completed.

_ Nova Scotia: 1,376 confirmed cases (90 active, 1,221 resolved, 65 deaths).

There were eight new cases Monday from 1,036 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.77 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 71 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 10.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.69 per 100,000 people.

There have been 154,250 tests completed.

_ New Brunswick: 536 confirmed cases (81 active, 448 resolved, seven deaths).

There were two new cases Monday from 389 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.51 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 35 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is five.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.9 per 100,000 people.

There have been 105,857 tests completed.

_ Quebec: 153,176 confirmed cases (14,602 active, 131,297 resolved, 7,277 deaths).

There were 1,577 new cases Monday from 12,046 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 13 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 10,805 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,544.

There were 22 new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 221 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 32. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.37 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 85.76 per 100,000 people.

There have been 2,260,394 tests completed.

_ Ontario: 129,234 confirmed cases (16,034 active, 109,402 resolved, 3,798 deaths).

There were 1,925 new cases Monday from 43,803 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 4.4 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 12,742 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,820.

There were 26 new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 142 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 20. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.14 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 26.07 per 100,000 people.

There have been 6,409,900 tests completed.

_ Manitoba: 19,131 confirmed cases (5,462 active, 13,262 resolved, 407 deaths).

There were 325 new cases Monday from 6,895 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 4.7 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,306 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 329.

There were 12 new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 95 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 14. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.99 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 29.72 per 100,000 people.

There have been 364,419 tests completed.

_ Saskatchewan: 10,412 confirmed cases (4,763 active, 5,589 resolved, 60 deaths).

There were 273 new cases Monday from 1,737 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 16 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,848 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 264.

There was one new reported death Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 13 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.16 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 5.11 per 100,000 people.

There have been 273,161 tests completed.

_ Alberta: 70,301 confirmed cases (20,067 active, 49,603 resolved, 631 deaths).

There were 1,735 new cases Monday from 24,878 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 7.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 12,124 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,732.

There were 16 new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 90 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 13. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.29 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 14.44 per 100,000 people.

There have been 1,527,350 tests completed.

_ British Columbia: 38,152 confirmed cases (10,338 active, 27,287 resolved, 527 deaths).

There were 647 new cases Monday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 4,914 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 702.

There were seven new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 86 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.24 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 10.39 per 100,000 people.

There have been 828,968 tests completed.

_ Yukon: 54 confirmed cases (12 active, 41 resolved, one deaths).

There were zero new cases Monday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of seven new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.45 per 100,000 people.

There have been 5,522 tests completed.

_ Northwest Territories: 15 confirmed cases (zero active, 15 resolved, zero deaths).

There were zero new cases Monday from 62 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.

There have been 6,573 tests completed.

_ Nunavut: 219 confirmed cases (51 active, 168 resolved, zero deaths).

There were three new cases Monday from 166 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 1.8 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 38 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is five.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.

There have been 4,625 tests completed.

This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Dec. 8, 2020.

The Canadian Press

National Student Loan Service Centre plagued by delays as requests for help soar

NICOLE THOMPSON, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Dec 7th, 2020

Throngs of former students have been unable to reach Canada’s loans centre, which is working through a backlog of more than 30,000 applications for repayment assistance.

The phone lines for the National Student Loans Service Centre have been clogged since a pandemic-induced moratorium on student loan collections lifted at the end of September, the agency said, pointing to a message on its website warning about long wait times and dropped calls.

“We’re currently experiencing unprecedented call volumes and are receiving a higher than usual volume of (repayment assistance plan) applications,” said spokeswoman Isabelle Maheu.

The agency said it saw 169,000 RAP applications between Oct. 1 – when loan payments resumed – and late November. Of those, 30,600 had yet to be processed.

The plan protects borrowers from having to repay their Canada Student Loan until they are earning at least $25,000 per year, and caps payments for those over the threshold.

But current and former students said their issues with the service centre go beyond long wait times.

Jaylen Bastos, a master’s student at the University of British Columbia, has been trying in vain to reach someone at the centre after receiving an email in mid-October about payments resuming.

Bastos, who uses the gender-neutral pronouns they and them, said they called every week, but could never get through.

And throughout November, they said, calls resulted in a message saying the phones were overloaded.

But even so, on Dec. 1, the service automatically withdrew $400 from their account.

“They just took money out of my account on the same day that I had to pay rent, and I was not expecting it to happen. So I was like, ‘Oh, okay, now I just have to come up with $400 extra during this pandemic, which is questionable for income for everyone,” they said.

Bastos tried calling their bank to see if it could do anything about it, but no luck, they said.

“It’s super frustrating, because there’s no options, right? There’s only one number to call, they don’t accept email, there’s no other way to access this service or get in contact with anyone,” they said.

For the foreseeable future, Bastos said, they’ll keep calling the centre in an effort to get through — and take screenshots after each failed attempt to show they did their due diligence.

The service centre said it’s still experiencing a high volume of calls, but that call centre capacity has increased, so students are able to get through again — though that hasn’t been Bastos’ experience.

The agency spokeswoman also said calls are higher in part because autumn is when new graduates are expected to start repaying their loans.

There are also more calls because of enhanced security protocols introduced after a “cyber incident” that affected a number of government departments, Maheu said.

“Clients that require assistance to access their online account due to increased security measures are a significant portion of the borrowers calling the NSLSC,” she said.

The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Monday, Dec. 7, 2020

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Dec 7th, 2020

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Monday Dec. 7, 2020.

There are 415,182 confirmed cases in Canada.

_ Canada: 415,182 confirmed cases (73,379 active, 329,138 resolved, 12,665 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers.

There were 6,261 new cases Sunday from 71,793 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 8.7 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 43,146 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 6,164.

There were 76 new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 601 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 86. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.23 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 33.69 per 100,000 people.

There have been 11,977,563 tests completed.

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 351 confirmed cases (30 active, 317 resolved, four deaths).

There were four new cases Sunday from 234 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 1.7 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 14 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.77 per 100,000 people.

There have been 64,368 tests completed.

_ Prince Edward Island: 80 confirmed cases (11 active, 69 resolved, zero deaths).

There were four new cases Sunday from 546 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.73 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of eight new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.

There have been 63,112 tests completed.

_ Nova Scotia: 1,368 confirmed cases (88 active, 1,215 resolved, 65 deaths).

There were four new cases Sunday from 849 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.47 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 78 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 11.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.69 per 100,000 people.

There have been 153,214 tests completed.

_ New Brunswick: 534 confirmed cases (82 active, 445 resolved, seven deaths).

There were four new cases Sunday from 502 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.80 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 39 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is six.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.9 per 100,000 people.

There have been 105,468 tests completed.

_ Quebec: 151,599 confirmed cases (14,326 active, 130,018 resolved, 7,255 deaths).

There were 1,691 new cases Sunday from 10,235 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 17 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 10,561 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,509.

There were 24 new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 222 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 32. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.37 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 85.5 per 100,000 people.

There have been 2,248,348 tests completed.

_ Ontario: 127,309 confirmed cases (15,547 active, 107,990 resolved, 3,772 deaths).

There were 1,924 new cases Sunday from 57,313 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 3.4 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 12,563 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,795.

There were 15 new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 124 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 18. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 25.89 per 100,000 people.

There have been 6,366,097 tests completed.

_ Manitoba: 18,806 confirmed cases (9,216 active, 9,195 resolved, 395 deaths).

There were 383 new cases Sunday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,323 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 332.

There were 14 new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 94 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 13. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.98 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 28.84 per 100,000 people.

There have been 357,524 tests completed.

_ Saskatchewan: 10,139 confirmed cases (4,550 active, 5,530 resolved, 59 deaths).

There were 409 new cases Sunday from 2,114 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 19 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,900 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 271.

There were four new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 14 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.17 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 5.02 per 100,000 people.

There have been 271,424 tests completed.

_ Alberta: 68,566 confirmed cases (19,484 active, 48,467 resolved, 615 deaths).

There were 1,836 new cases Sunday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 12,122 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,732.

There were 19 new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 82 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.27 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 14.07 per 100,000 people.

There have been 1,502,472 tests completed.

_ British Columbia: 36,132 confirmed cases (9,982 active, 25,658 resolved, 492 deaths).

There were zero new cases Sunday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,490 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 499.

There were zero new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 65 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is nine. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.18 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 9.7 per 100,000 people.

There have been 828,968 tests completed.

_ Yukon: 54 confirmed cases (12 active, 41 resolved, one deaths).

There were zero new cases Sunday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of nine new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.45 per 100,000 people.

There have been 5,522 tests completed.

_ Northwest Territories: 15 confirmed cases (zero active, 15 resolved, zero deaths).

There were zero new cases Sunday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.

There have been 6,511 tests completed.

_ Nunavut: 216 confirmed cases (51 active, 165 resolved, zero deaths).

There were two new cases Sunday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 39 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is six.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.

There have been 4,459 tests completed.

This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Dec. 7, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Ottawa prepares COVID-19 vaccine distribution test run

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Dec 7th, 2020

The military, health workers and government officials will go through a practice run today of the complex plan to deliver COVID-19 vaccines across the country.

The first vaccine, made by Pfizer-BioNtech, could be approved for use in Canada as early as this week.

And Major-General Dany Fortin, who’s leading the military through the vaccine distribution process, says the dry run is intended to get everyone involved comfortable with the intense requirements of handling a vaccine that has to be kept below minus 70 Celcius at all times.

The national operations centre quarterbacking the effort is looking at two phases of a vaccine rollout, starting with about six million doses this winter — enough to vaccinate three million people with two doses each.

The military could be called upon to fly doses on short order from Europe, the U.S. or elsewhere, and to help get them to remote, northern and coastal communities.

But the military remains as much in the dark as everyone else about the specific timing for the doses to start arriving.

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