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Alberta construction sites allowed to continue with precautions during COVID-19 pandemic

While construction projects, job sites and work camps are legally exempt from Alberta’s COVID-19-related 50-person mass gathering rule, industry leaders said they are still implementing extra safety protocols to stop the spread of the virus and are following advice from Alberta Health.

Bill Black, president and chief operating officer of the Calgary Construction Association, said the organization, along with other industry stakeholders, are taking the health and safety of workers during this pandemic very seriously.

The CCA and other groups recently put together a pandemic planning guide of best practices to be used as a guideline for other construction contractors, Black said.

“If the density of workers got to the point that it was considered contrary to the social distancing recommendations, then the workloads are being adjusted. The number of people on site are being reduced and the prioritization of work is being changed,” Black said.

“When this crisis began to emerge, the safety resources took on the challenge of a new threat and a new issue, and applied their experience and began to compile safety protocols.”

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Black said the “safety-conscious” industry looked at everything, including managing sites, proximity of workers, sanitizing equipment and hand tools, restricting meetings and changing lunchtime procedures.

Several industry workers, who didn’t want to be identified for fear of losing their jobs, raised concerns with Global News about construction sites, like the Calgary Cancer Centre, and questioned whether they were safe.

In a statement, a spokesperson with the Ministry of Infrastructure said all workers are required to work six feet from each other for extended periods of time. It added that the Calgary Cancer Centre site is two million square feet in size and allows for “adequate social distancing.”

“Cleaning products are available and are being used to sanitize lunchrooms. Any staff or workers with any signs of illness or who have traveled recently are required to stay home and self-isolate. The Calgary Cancer Centre project has reviewed their COVID-19 processes and protocols with the government’s Occupational Health & Safety and Environmental Public Health departments,” the statement read.

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Coronavirus: All Lake Simcoe Region conservation areas closed

All conservation areas under the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority are closed until further notice due to the novel coronavirus.

“Due to the non-essential nature of our conservation areas, we are no longer able to maintain trails, hazard trees and undertake other non-essential services during COVID-19,” reads a statement by the local conservation authority.

“This difficult decision was made in support of legislation put in place by the province to stop the spread of COVID-19 and to keep our watershed residents as safe as possible throughout this trying time.”

The local conservation areas include Scanlon Creek in Bradford, Sheppard’s Bush in Aurora, Thornton Bales in King, Rogers Reservoir in East Gwillimbury, Whitchurch in Stouffville, the Durham Regional Forest in south and west of Uxbridge, and the Beaver River Wetlands, between Uxbridge and Cannington.

On Monday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford ordered all non-essential businesses to close by Tuesday, March 24, at 11:59 p.m.

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As of Wednesday afternoon, there are 671 active cases of the novel coronavirus in Ontario. There have been nine deaths in the province.

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Coronavirus: Saskatoon closes playgrounds to prevent contact with equipment surfaces

Playgrounds in Saskatoon have been closed as city officials say they continue to reassess COVID-19 developments to ensure the safety and well-being of citizens.

Officials said the measure, effective Wednesday, was taken to prevent people from touching playground equipment surfaces.

It does not affect dog parks, public squares and public areas around civic buildings, but officials are urging caution.

People using dog parks are being reminded by the city to ensure proper social distancing, and officials said health and safety messages will be posted.

Officials said they realize the need for people to get fresh air and exercise, but they are asking everyone to consider individual outings or going outside with just one other person while maintaining appropriate distances.

Sports fields should not be used for any organized sports or play, and games, sports and activities that put people in close contact should be avoided, officials said.

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To date, there have been 72 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in Saskatchewan, with 34 of those cases in Saskatoon.

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New app, website developed to help Hamiltonians fight spread of coronavirus

A Hamilton-based technology company has developed an app and website in hopes of helping to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

In partnership with the Hamilton Academy of Medicine, Lumedi Inc. has developed Community Watch, an app and website, at no cost to the city or its users.

While handwashing and social distancing are helpful in stopping the spread of the virus, early detection is also key.

“We believe that everyone must do everything they can in their own community to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Jamie Harsevoort, founder and CEO of Lumedi Inc.

“For us, it meant putting our team to work to create an app that is proactive in identifying COVID-19 information before it hits the health-care system, rather than being reactive. Most of our staff live and work in this community, and we want to ensure they and all Hamiltonians remain healthy and viable during this unprecedented time.”

The new app will provide key insights to help local health authorities in five different ways:

Lumedi is asking Hamiltonians to complete a 30-second survey once a day during the crisis at https://covid19app.ca/.

By doing so, the app will be able to immediately identify trends that have changed as well as break down the data to the neighbourhood level to see if there are hot spots within the community on which local health authorities can act.

The data collection procedure will be monitored by the leaders of Hamilton Academy of Medicine and Hamilton’s medical officer of health.

Participants will self-report symptoms each day, and the results will be shared with Hamilton Academy of Medicine, Hamilton’s medical officer of health, Hamilton Public Health, local hospital systems and other relevant stakeholders.

Currently, Community Watch is available online, and its app will be available on Google Play and in the App Store by the end of Monday.

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London Abused Women’s Centre still offering services online, by phone amid COVID-19 pandemic

The London Abused Women’s Centre (LAWC) has announced operational changes amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The LAWC is offering its services over the phone and hopes to have online services available in the coming days.

“We called together a staff meeting on Sunday night and asked them to join us very early in the morning on Monday, and a decision was made to limit individuals from coming into the office but we would be providing Skype and phone counselling,” said Megan Walker, executive director of the LAWC.

Walker says the LAWC currently has three staff members working completely at home and limited staff to cover shifts at the facility, where victims of abuse continue to show up.

“We have had, of course, people that have come to the door, and what we’re doing is inviting them into the very front area. We’re making sure they have some food, some drinks and then we’re sending them home with a taxi voucher so they don’t have to pay for that or use public transit, and they’ll also leave with a phone counselling session appointment.”

The move to continue offering services with the LAWC comes at a time where vulnerable women are in self-isolation 24 hours a day.

“So many people have been self-isolating in their homes and have been sent home by their workplaces. We’re in a situation where women who are being abused are really at home now 24-7 with their abuser,” Walker said.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the government would provide $50 million to support women and children fleeing violence. The money would be distributed to women’s shelters and sexual assault centres to help manage or prevent an outbreak in their facilities. Walker says the problem during this pandemic extends beyond just tossing money at shelters like hers.

“To me, the funding is great if we allow women to go to hotels or things of that nature, but this is a much bigger issue than just throwing money at a problem,” she said.

“We are under siege, and when women are forced to stay at home with an abuser, their fear is not coronavirus, their fear is their partner.”

That is why ideas are now being deliberated to figure out a way to keep services running at the LAWC.

“Right now, we’re investigating whether we can put a barrier of plexiglass or glass, or whatever it might be, inside the offices so that we can open it up to the outside and allow women with appointments to come in. That is not going to be happening over the next week or two weeks,” Walker said.

Walker says phone counselling services are available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday, and Zoom group counselling online will start next week.

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WestJet says some recent passengers may have been exposed to coronavirus

WestJet Airlines says some of its passengers may have been exposed to people infected with the novel coronavirus on recent flights.

The Calgary-based company made the announcement on its website and social media Tuesday, listing the flights and affected rows.

It says passengers in affected rows are considered close contacts to those infected and could be at risk of exposure.

The airline says that public health officials are recommending people who sat in those rows to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival and monitor symptoms.

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Coronavirus: Health systems ramping up to prepare for possible influx of patients

While Canadians stay home in an effort to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, officials are working behind the scenes to try to increase the health care system’s capacity to fight the virus.

For more than a week, health officials have urged Canadians to “flatten the curve,” by staying home and keeping a distance between themselves and others to slow down the spread of the virus.

The idea is to spread out the number of cases so health care capacity isn’t overwhelmed all at once.

But there’s a second half to that equation: while Canadians are flattening the curve, health care systems need to simultaneously increase their capacity.

“We’ve done it before. The health care system does it annually with the seasonal flu. We do have the ability to respond to surges,” said Dr. Gigi Osler, president of the Canadian Medical Association.

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Coronavirus: Conservatives tweak leadership race approach but keep deadlines amid outbreak

The deadlines for the Conservative leadership race will remain fixed, the party said Monday, over the objections of several contenders who say the rapid spread of COVID-19 demands a new approach.

The June 27 election for the next party leader has been thrown into flux by the rapidly evolving crisis brought on by the virus, with public-health officials now banning gatherings of more than 50 people and urging against all non-essential travel.

Supporter rallies and cross-country treks are staples of the leadership campaign circuit and with six candidates still trying to meet the March 25 requirements to raise $300,000 and get 3,000 signatures to be on the ballot, having those two avenues cut off is a major source of concern.

The party will now allow signatures to be submitted online, it said Monday, and is also offering to advertise one tele-townhall per campaign as a gesture of support. Debates planned for April will now be held without a studio audience as well.

But the contest needs to continue as scheduled, it said.

“As Canada’s Official Opposition party, we have an important role in our democracy, and we owe it to Canadians to have the new Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in place under the timelines we’ve announced,” the party said.

“It’s important to the integrity of our process, and it’s important that we are able to hold the government to account, providing a voice for Canadians, especially in trying times such as what we’re currently witnessing taking place in this country.”

One candidate, Rick Peterson, has now suspended his grassroots fundraising efforts, saying he’ll look for alternative sources of financing.

“We’ll not be asking individuals to send money to a political campaign at a time when every dollar counts,” he said.

Candidate Marilyn Gladu said Canadians are simply not focused on the campaign at the moment, and the deadlines should be pushed back.

“There will be more than sufficient time to engage them in an effective leadership campaign when the immediate threat of pandemic COVID-19 has been eliminated,” she said.

The two candidates already on the ballot, Erin O’Toole and Peter MacKay, have now pivoted their campaign messaging almost exclusively to their takes on how the government ought to be acting to address the crisis, with O’Toole suggesting Monday the country be placed on “war footing” and MacKay proposing a suite of fiscal measures to handle what’s expected to be a massive economic fallout.

O’Toole said the federal government should invoke the Emergencies Act so the federal government can prohibit travel, enforce self-isolation and control assemblies, while also mobilizing the military to back up the health system.

“Now is the time to put our government and our economy on a war footing, with leadership from the top,” he said in an email to supporters.

O’Toole and MacKay have been posting photos to social media showing them working the phones, though their campaigns have each been accusing the other of continuing to hold public events despite a promise not to.

As O’Toole demanded that the military be spooled up, MacKay called for the government not to just spend more of its own money to combat the economic challenges being created by the spread of the virus.

“Before the government spends on new programs, we should help people help themselves with their own money,” he said, suggesting tax changes that could get more cash flowing in Canada.

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West Edmonton Mall closes waterpark, Galaxyland in response to COVID-19

West Edmonton Mall has closed down the World Waterpark and Galaxyland in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several other attractions are also closing: Marine Life, Crystal Labyrinth Mirror Maze and Ed’s Bowling.

The mall itself remained open as of Monday morning, as did the Fantasyland Hotel and West Edmonton Mall Inn. It said in a statement that some tenants had opted to reduce operating hours.

The mall made the announcement Sunday night, just hours after the province announced that all schools in the province would close.

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Coronavirus: 3 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Ottawa, bringing total up to 13

The Ontario government has confirmed Ottawa has three new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus.

According to the province, all three are currently self-isolating.

That puts the total number of cases in Ottawa up to 13 as of the morning of Monday, March 16.

On Sunday, the city announced five new cases in Ottawa — the biggest jump since the outbreak arrived in the nation’s capital.

Also on Sunday, Ottawa’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Vera Etches, announced there was more than likely “local transmission of the virus in Ottawa.”

Etches said this was likely due to a previous lack of self-isolation restrictions following travel.

“Given the estimate that one case is likely to cause about two more and the doubling time is four to five days, there could now be hundreds to even a thousand cases in the community now,” Etches said in a statement on Sunday.

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