The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Thursday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
1:45 p.m. Aretha Greatrix had to do a double take last month, when she got a text message and email thanking her for renewing her subscription to OutTV.
The Edmonton filmmaker signed up for an annual subscription to the specialty streaming service years ago to watch “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” but swore she had cancelled it by the time the auto renew message arrived. She was mistaken.
“I was thinking, ‘you mean I’ve had it the whole time?’… and not only that but now I’m paying for another year,” she recalled.
Greatrix is one of many Canadians being confronted with reminders about subscriptions for streaming platforms, meal kits, magazines and even household goods like diapers and cleaning supplies e-commerce giants like Amazon.com Inc. can ship consumers at regular intervals.
1:30 p.m. The Crown is accusing “Freedom Convoy” organizer Tamara Lich of breaching her bail conditions and prosecutors argue she should go back to jail until her trial.
A judge initially denied Lich bail after her arrest during the massive protest that overtook downtown Ottawa for more than three weeks in February, but she was released in March after a review of the court decision.
She appeared virtually on Thursday in Ontario Superior Court, where lawyers wrangled over how the bail hearing should proceed.
Lich and fellow protest organizer Chris Barber are jointly accused of mischief, obstructing police, counselling others to commit mischief and intimidation.
She was released with a long list of conditions, including a ban from all social media and an order not to “support anything related to the Freedom Convoy.”
The Crown says Lich has violated one of her bail conditions by agreeing to accept a “freedom award” from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, a legal advocacy group that supported the protest.
The organization planned to honour her at a gala celebration for inspiring “Canadians to exercise their Charter rights and freedoms by participating actively in the democratic process,” and leading the “Freedom Convoy” protest in Ottawa.
12:15 p.m. Ontario is reporting 168 people in ICU due to COVID-19 and 1,207 in hospital overall testing positive for COVID-19, according to its latest report released Thursday morning.
Of the people hospitalized, 39.3 per cent were admitted for COVID-19 and 60.8 per cent were admitted for other reasons but have since tested positive. For the ICU numbers, 62.3 per cent were admitted for COVID-19 and 37.7 per cent were admitted for other reasons but have since tested positive.
The numbers represent a 3.0 per cent increase in the ICU COVID-19 count and a 3.2 per cent decrease in hospitalizations overall. 24 per cent of the province’s 2,343 adult ICU beds remain available for new patients.
Read the full story from the Star’s Dorcas Marfo
11:30 a.m. Nova Scotia is lifting its COVID-19 mask mandate in the province’s public schools on Tuesday.
Education Minister Becky Druhan said today in a news release that masks are still recommended and students and staff who choose to wear them will be supported.
However, Druhan says with warmer weather and with COVID-19 data improving, now is the time to make masks optional in schools.
The minister says the change means that all provinces in Canada have removed their school mask mandates.
Nova Scotia removed masking requirements for most public places on March 21, but the health order was maintained in schools, health-care facilities and in long-term care and other congregate facilities.
9:20 a.m. Ashley Biden, the daughter of President Joe Biden and Jill Biden, has COVID-19 and is no longer accompanying her mother on a trip through Latin America, the White House said Wednesday.
She is not considered a close contact to either of her parents, said Michael LaRosa, the first lady’s spokesperson. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said it had been “several days” since the president and first lady last saw their daughter.
Ashley Biden’s positive test result was announced just before Jill Biden’s flight Wednesday to Ecuador, the first stop on her six-day Latin America trip. The first lady also planned to visit Panama and Costa Rica before returning to Washington next week.
It’s the second time that the coronavirus has caused Ashley Biden, 40, to miss out on traveling abroad with her mother.
Earlier in May, she was bumped from the first lady’s trip to Eastern Europe to visit with Ukrainian refugees after learning that she had been a close contact of someone who later tested positive for COVID-19. Ashley Biden had tested negative after that exposure, LaRosa said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines “close contact” with an infected person as spending 15 minutes or more with them over a 24-hour period. The CDC says people with “close contact” do not need to quarantine if they are up to date on their vaccines but should wear well-fitting masks around other people for 10 days after the contact.
8:30 a.m. Years of government restraint in health-care funding have contributed to a loss of more than 7,300 registered nurse positions in Ontario in a 10-year span, according to data from the Ontario Nurses’ Association.
The data shows that 75 per cent of those RN positions — more than 5,500 — were cut from 2013 to 2016, a time when the former provincial Liberal government, led by Kathleen Wynne, tried to rein in health spending in an effort to balance the budget.
“We were trying to balance the needs of the health-care system with the fiscal needs of the province,” said Wynne in a recent interview with the Star.
“Knowing what I know now about COVID, and had I been able to see that coming or had I understood that, then I might have made different decisions,” said Wynne. “But I never stopped and our government never stopped increasing funding to health care.”
Read the full story from the Star’s Patty Winsa
8:05 a.m. Movie theatres have always offered a communal escape in tough times, whether from the bleak Depression of the 1930s or the uncertainty of war in the 1940s. Toronto’s oldest surviving theatre, The Revue, literally passed out glasses of milk with each movie ticket so impoverished kids could get nutrition during the Second World War.
The past few years, however, have been a different story. Other platforms are meeting more viewers’ entertainment needs.
Back in the day, TV and home video rentals certainly gave feature films a run for their money. But streaming services, such as Netflix, so drastically changed the movie-going landscape that studios now consistently premiere releases online, taking their movies to the viewers.
Read the full story from Ryan Uytdewilligen Special to the Star
7:40 a.m. NDP leader Andrea Horwath cancelled a scheduled northern campaign swing Thursday morning after testing positive for COVID-19 shortly before she was to board a charter flight to Sault Ste. Marie and then Thunder Bay.
She was not feeling any symptoms and planned to continue with at least some of her scheduled events remotely by Zoom Thursday.
She had been in close quarters with Green Party leader Mike Schreiner in the television studio during Monday’s debate. Schreiner tested positive Wednesday.
While some other northern campaign stops might be rescheduled, Horwath is likely to be grounded under quarantine for five days from Thursday. The NDP campaign had to scuttle a planned trip to Sandy Lake First Nation by plane.
Read the full story from the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau
Two of the leaders of Ontario’s four major political parties are sidelined with COVID-19 with two weeks left to election day. Both NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner have tested positive. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Thursday 5:52 a.m.: On a recent nighttime visit to a drugstore, a double-masked Kim Jong Un lamented the slow delivery of medicine. Separately, the North Korean leader’s lieutenants have quarantined hundreds of thousands of suspected COVID-19 patients and urged people with mild symptoms to take willow leaf or honeysuckle tea.
Despite what the North’s propaganda is describing as an all-out effort, the fear is palpable among citizens, according to defectors in South Korea with contacts in the North, and some outside observers worry the outbreak may get much worse, with much of an impoverished, unvaccinated population left without enough hospital care and struggling to afford even simple medicine.
“North Koreans know so many people around the world have died because of COVID-19, so they have fear that some of them could die, too,” said Kang Mi-jin, a North Korean defector, citing her phone calls with contacts in the northern North Korean city of Hyesan. She said people who can afford it are buying traditional medicine to deal with their anxieties.
Since admitting what it called its first domestic COVID-19 outbreak one week ago, North Korea has been fighting to handle a soaring health crisis that has intensified public anxiety over a virus it previously claimed to have kept at bay.
Wednesday 9 a.m. The leader of the Green Party of Ontario says he has tested positive for COVID-19.
Mike Schreiner says he tested positive on a rapid test Wednesday evening after close contact with a staff member.
Schreiner says in a statement that he is “feeling fine” and is fully vaccinated.
He says he will campaign remotely from home “for a few days” while following public health advice.
Ontario’s current public health rules require that people isolate for five days after COVID-19 symptoms first appear or after a positive test result, whichever comes first.
Schreiner’s diagnosis comes at the halfway mark of the provincial election campaign and days after his well-reviewed performance in a televised party leaders’ debate boosted attention on him and his party.
Read Wednesday’s coronavirus news.
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