A summary of the day’s activities of Tuesday, September 8, follows.
Federal Government Relief Measures
There were no new announcements today. Statement of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not hold a press briefing on COVID-19 today.
Federal Government Briefing
A vast majority of students across Canada are heading back to school today as the COVID-19 curve is creeping upward. Yesterday, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Tam released a statement confirming that an average of 545 new cases have been reported daily during the most recent seven days, double the number of midJuly. The curve is heading upward everywhere except in Atlantic Canada. Case numbers in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec are rising in the triple digits.
On Sunday, Quebec recorded 205 new COVID-19 cases, the highest number of cases since mid-July. Today, it recorded 163 new cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 63,876. Yesterday, Ontario recorded 190 new COVID cases and 185 new cases today for a total number of 43,456 cases.
At the time of writing this bulleting, no further updates had been posted for British Columbia and Alberta. On Friday, September 4, Alberta recorded 164 new cases of COVID-19 and British Columbia recorded 121 new cases.
Today, both Dr. Tam and her deputy Dr. Njoo stressed that it is important to keep transmission of COVID-19 at a manageable level in the community because cases in schools reflect the epidemiological situation in communities. Dr. Tam explained that a key indicator of acceleration is the “R number” or reproduction number, which is a way of rating the ability of the disease to spread. Nationally, the “R number” is now hovering above one, said Dr. Tam. “This is a not a good sign”, she noted. “We do not want this to happen.” Dr. Njoo added “the resurgence of the virus in communities is being monitored very carefully.”
Statement of Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Ministers
In a news conference at Queen’s Park, Ontario Premier Doug Ford provided an update on the government’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, focusing his remarks on the province’s back to school plan. Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott, Education Minister Stephen Lecce and Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, joined the Premier.
Premier Ford reiterated the government took extraordinary steps to reopen schools safely. According to the Premier, Ontario’s back to school plan has the “most rigorous health and safety protocols in the country.” Education Minister Stephen Lecce echoed the Premier’s view. "Our plan is the most cautious, safe and comprehensive in the country, fully funded and fully informed by leading medical leaders to ensure we reduce the risk, support positive mental health, and improve the safety of all students and staff," said Minister Lecce.
Deputy Minister and Minister of Health Christine Elliott said that latest trends in numbers were of “concern”, particularly as schools are reopening. She announced that the government was “taking a pause of four weeks” before lifting further COVID-19 economic and social restrictions. Deputy Minister Elliott implored the people of Ontario to follow public health advice.
During the media scrum, Premier Ford confirmed that he and Québec Premier François Legault were holding their first-ever Ontario-Québec Summit later this afternoon. The objective of the summit is to advance shared priorities on economic recovery and health preparedness, issues important to the people of the two provinces.
The press release announcing the summit states, “the Premiers and Ministers will participate in a series of meetings where they will discuss key areas of cooperation. The provinces plan to work together to share lessons learned from the pandemic, accelerate economic recovery and growth by reducing barriers to international trade and promoting Ontario-made and Québec-made products, and advocate on behalf of Ontarians and Quebeckers with the federal government to provide fair, flexible and sustainable funding for important priorities, including health care, infrastructure and broadband.”
The delegation of Ontario Ministers who will participate in the summit are: Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health; Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance; Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade; Laurie Scott, Minister of Infrastructure; Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation; and Peter Bethlenfalvy, President of the Treasury Board.
The delegation of Québec Ministers who will participate in the summit are: Éric Girard, Minister of Finance; Christian Dubé, Minister of Health; Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of Economy and Innovation; Sonia LeBel, Chair of the Conseil du Trésor and Minister Responsible for Infrastructure; and François Bonnardel, Minister of Transport.
Statement from Québec
The Minister of Health and Social Services Christian Dubé unveiled the government’s Progressive 4-Level Regional Alert and Intervention System.
The four levels of compliance include:
1) The Green level – vigilance is important. “Activities maintained are in compliance with basic health measures and specific measures added, if necessary.” Currently, the majority of Quebec regions are at this level, including Montreal.
2) The Yellow level - the "pre-alert" stage. This means that community transmission of the virus is beginning to increase rapidly. This level calls for strengthened basic health measures and specific measures added, if necessary. Currently, four regions of Quebec are at this level: Laval, Estrie, Capitale-Nationale and Outaouais. Restrictions include controlling access to certain public places in addition to increasing the number of inspections carried out by the public health department and the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du Québec (CNESST).
3) The Orange level - the "moderate alert" level. It implies a progressive intensification of the virus. “Some higher risk activities are restricted or prohibited” such as private and public gatherings.
4) The Red level – the "maximum alert" level. This stage also implies a progressive intensification of the virus. This level includes “restrictions or prohibitions of non-essential activities where risk cannot be sufficiently contained.” Minister Dubé said the economic situation would be taken into account before imposing restrictions on non-essential activities to minimize the impact of the restriction or prohibition on businesses as much as possible.
The epidemiological situation, the transmission control, and the capacity of the health care system in regions, are the key factors guiding the choice of the alert level.
Minister Dubé said the government is aiming to achieve two objectives with this regional alert system. First, the government seeks to provide better predictability on the COVID-19 restrictions that will be applied by region and sub-region. Second, the government hopes Quebecers will take responsibility and respect the public health measures already in place to prevent a return to lockdown.
Minister Dubé emphasized the alert system is a regional system because the COVID-19 virus does not evolve the same way across regions of Quebec, and some regions are more compliant to COVID-19 restrictions than others. This allows the government to tailor its response to COVID-19 based on the situation of each region.
Minister Dubé clarified that some enforcement measures may vary by region, even though the color code is similar. He said that Deputy Minister and Minister of Public Safety, Geneviève Guilbault, will soon announce the applicable enforcement measures.
Questioned on the health situation on the Island of Montreal, which varies from one borough to another, Minister Dubé said the Mayor of Montreal, Ms. Valérie Plante, was informed that the regional alert system could be applied to vary from one borough to another. Thus, the system will be applied by region and sub-region.
Elsewhere in Canada
Jason Nixon, Minister of Environment and Parks, announced that up to 125 jobs will be funded in conservationrelated activities as part of Alberta’s Recovery Plan. The $9.7 million investment in these projects is from the Land Stewardship Fund. This is a temporary measure in response to the economic downturn from the COVID-19 pandemic meant to stimulate the economy and create new jobs, while achieving important conservation outcomes.
Alberta Innovates and Western Economic Diversification Canada are providing funding to the Smart Sustainable Resilient Infrastructure Association as part of Alberta’s Recovery Plan. The $6.3 million will create immediate and future jobs in Alberta for testing energy-efficient innovation and technology in the construction centre.
On Friday, September 4, Michelle Mungall, Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness, announced that British Columbia’s monthly labour force numbers for August show that British Columbia’s safe restart plan continued to make positive gains for the fourth month in a row, with 15,300 jobs created in British Columbia last month. Total employment now stands at 94% of the pre-pandemic level in February.
On Saturday, September 5, Rob Fleming, Minister of Education, made a statement about the return to school in British Columbia. He spoke about the provincial investment of $45.6 million in COVID-19 specific funding for schools and the supply of 1.5 million reusable face masks available to students and staff. He stated that, “Every dollar of the provincial and federal funding will benefit students in BC”.
On Sunday, September 6, Bruce Ralston, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, announced changes in the mining sector in British Columbia to better protect workers, communities and the environment. These changes allow the British Columbia government to better support the mining sector as the economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.