Halton recorded 25 COVID 19 deaths as the Region moved into Stage 3: is the public disciplined enough to keep the infection from spreading from person to person?

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

August 3rd, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

We are on the last day of a long weekend that has given us more rain than we expected.

People able to get out on the Saturday but come the evening the rains came and kept us wet for much of Sunday.

Last Friday we saw the updates of COVID-19 infection data from the Regional Medical Officer of Health. The numbers were acceptable. Now that we are in Stage 3 where people can move about much more – go into restaurants and gather in larger groups, we are about to be tested on just how disciplined we are going to be able to be.

covid virus

A graphic depiction of the virus.

The virus is in the community – do we maintain individual personal discipline and wear face masks while outside, wash our hands frequently and maintain that six foot thing when we are amongst people we don’t know?

For a feature that explain just how this virus infect us CLICK HERE.

How well we do will show up in the Public Health numbers in a week to ten days. So we wait.

The Public Health numbers as of the 29th of July are set out below.

In Halton, made up of Burlington, Oakville, Milton and Halton Hills the total number of COVID-19 cases amount to 910, – 827 confirmed + 83 probable.

24 cases currently active among Halton residents – 22 confirmed + 2 probable.

7 day moving average a

All cases have been graphed according to their episode date, which is used to estimate the date that symptoms began. Counts for the past 14 days should be interpreted with caution (indicated using the grey shaded area on the graph), since there is a delay between when a person becomes infected and when they develop symptoms, get tested and are reported as a case.

Probable cases are individuals presumed to have COVID-19 because they have symptoms of COVID-19 and are travelers returning from an affected area, have had close contact with a confirmed case, lived/worked in a facility experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak, or have indeterminate test results.

For each day, Figure 3 shows the average number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases over the past seven days, including only those cases that are not staff or residents/patients associated with an outbreak in an institutional or congregate care setting. Cases have been graphed according to their collection date, which is the date that a sample was taken from them to be tested for COVID-19. The graph suggests that the average number of new cases per day was highest in late March/early April, with another increase in mid-May. Counts for recent days should be interpreted with caution (indicated using the grey shaded area on the graph), since there is a delay between when a person is tested and when their test results are reported to Public Health and entered into the system.

Residents or patients of an institution experiencing an outbreak made up 9% of all cases – 79 people.  114 cases were people who worked in health care – 13% of all cases.

by age and sex b

Infections by age and gender; This is no longer a virus that attacks just the elderly

Figure 4 shows that by end of the day on July 29, the most COVID-19 cases were among Halton residents aged 40-59 (with 312 cases, or 34%). 499 cases (55%) were female. Two cases with unknown sex are excluded from the graph.

Females have outnumbered the males in terms of who got infected.

by municipality c

Figure 5 – infections by municipality.

Figure 5 shows that by end of the day on July 29, the greatest number of COVID-19 cases were among residents of Oakville (with 299 cases, or 33%).

 

where is it coming from d

Figure 6: Where the public health people determined the infection came from.

Figure 6 shows the percentage of COVID-19 cases by primary exposure category for Halton’s four municipalities and for Halton overall. For Halton overall, by end of day on July 29, 359 cases (40%) had contact with a confirmed case that was believed to be the source of their infection. 300 COVID-19 cases (33%) had no known travel or contact history, and therefore were believed to have acquired the virus within Ontario, making them community cases. 145 (16%) were residents/patients or staff associated with an outbreak in an institutional, congregate care, or workplace setting. 100 cases (11%) had a history of travel that was believed to have been the source of their infection. These proportions vary by municipality, and six cases with exposure information pending have been excluded.

It is important to note that cases can have multiple exposures, and these data reflect only their primary exposure category based on information gathered during case investigation.

Case and contact follow-up

testing goal eFigure 7 shows that 100% of Halton cases reported over the past seven days (Jul. 23-28) were reached by Halton Region Public Health within one day of being reported, which exceeds the provincial goal of 90%. Figure 8 shows that Halton Region Public Health reached 92% of contacts identified over the past seven days (Jul. 23-28) within one day, compared to the provincial goal of 90%.

It is important to note that Public Health attempted to reach 100% of cases and community contacts within one day but in some cases could not reach the client within that time span. Common reasons for not reaching clients within one day include incorrect phone number provided or client did not respond to repeated contact attempts.

Case outcomes

99 cases have ever been hospitalized to date – four are listed as currently in hospital.

861 cases have been resolved;  25 people have died to date (12 of the deceased were residents or patients of an institution experiencing an outbreak)

Institutional outbreaks

institutional fFigure 9 shows the 21 confirmed outbreaks of COVID-19 in Halton institutions reported by end of the day on July 29. Institutions are defined as long-term care homes, retirement homes and hospitals. All 21 of the outbreaks have resolved. Among the 21 confirmed institutional outbreaks reported to date, 13 (62%) have been in long-term care homes, seven (33%) have been in retirement homes and one (5%) has been in a hospital.

Lab testing

>4,380
Halton residents were tested for COVID-19 within the past seven days of available data (Jul. 19-25)

>53,120
Halton residents are known to have been tested for COVID-19 to date

tested - results g

Figure 10″ The number of people tested and the percentage that were found to be positive.

The green bars in Figure 10 show the number of Halton residents who were tested for COVID-19 each week, beginning the week of March 1-7. Data for the most recent week (Jul. 19-25) is incomplete due to reporting lags. The number of people tested decreased the week of May 17 compared to past weeks as mass testing of institutional residents was completed. The number of people tested then began to increase again, as the provincial government permitted more widespread testing.

The orange line in Figure 10 indicates the percentage of tested Halton residents who were positive for COVID-19. The percent positivity was highest the week of April 5-11, when 10.3% of Halton residents who were tested for COVID-19 had positive results. In the most recent week (Jul. 19-25), 0.3% of people tested for COVID-19 tested positive, although this number is subject to reporting delays.

 

Data limitations and Data sources
Halton case data: Case and Contact Management system (CCM), extracted at 7:00 AM on July 30, 2020, to reflect data entered by the end of the day on July 29, 2020

Halton lab testing data: Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, Number of individuals who were confirmed positive for COVID-19, COVID-19 Testing Period: 15 Jan 2020 to 25 July 2020. Received on July 28, 2020.
Ontario case counts: Public Health Ontario, Epidemiologic Summary, COVID-19 in Ontario: January 15, 2020 to July 29, 2020, posted on July 30, 2020 to https://www.ontario.ca/page/2019-novel-coronavirus.

Denominators for Halton and Ontario age-specific rates: Population projections [2020], IntelliHEALTH Ontario, extracted on April 8, 2020.

Data notes
CCM is a dynamic disease reporting system which allows ongoing updates to data previously entered. As a result, data extracted from CCM represent a snapshot at the time of extraction and may differ from previous or subsequent reports. The data only represent cases reported to public health and recorded in CCM. As a result, all counts will be subject to varying degrees of underreporting due to a variety of factors, such as disease awareness and medical care seeking behaviours, which may depend on severity of illness, clinical practice, changes in laboratory testing, and reporting behaviours.

Figures 1 and 2 distinguish between lab-confirmed and probable cases. Probable cases are individuals presumed to have COVID-19 because they have symptoms of COVID-19 and are travelers returning from an affected area, have had close contact with a confirmed case, lived/worked in a facility experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak, or had indeterminate test results.All other figures and numbers include both confirmed and probable cases combined, except Figure 3, which uses confirmed cases only.

All data includes only individuals whose main usual residence is in Halton Region. Cases who have municipality information pending are excluded.
Active cases, resolved cases and deaths are a subset of total cases.
• Cases are considered to be active if the case is open in CCM and not listed as resolved.
• Case outcomes (resolved, deaths) reflect the latest available information reported to Halton Region Public Health and recorded in CCM by the extraction time.
• Resolved cases are persons who have been discharged from isolation at 14 days after symptom onset if they did not have a fever and their symptoms were improving for at least 72 hours OR 14 days from when they were tested if they were asymptomatic. For cases with no significant improvement in symptoms, Public Health continues monitoring until the case meets resolution criteria and the case is closed in CCM. For cases in hospital, a test-based approach may be used and isolation is continued until 2 consecutive negative tests are obtained, at least 24 hours apart.
• Deaths include any death that occurred among a person who tested positive for COVID-19, even if the death may not have been directly attributable to COVID-19.
In subsequent reports, counts in Figures 1-3 may increase as cases are added from past dates as individuals become symptomatic, get tested, and their results are reported to Halton Region Public Health, as well as any past results are added due to delayed data entry or new arrival of lab results.

Cases are considered to be patients or residents of an institution experiencing an outbreak if they are linked to a confirmed Halton institutional outbreak in CCM, and they are not known to be a staff person at the institution.

Cases are considered to work in health care if they are known to have an occupation that involves caring for patients, e.g. physician, nurse, occupational therapist, recreational therapist, chiropractor, paramedic, midwife, orderly, etc. Individuals who work in health care settings but do not provide direct care to patients (e.g. managers, cleaning staff) have not been included.

Exposure type is determined by examining the risk factor fields in CCM to determine whether a case travelled, was a resident/patient or staff member in an institution/congregate care setting/workplace experiencing an outbreak inside or outside Halton, was a contact of a case or neither. A hierarchy has been applied as follows:
• Cases with episode date before April 1: Travel > Associated with any type of outbreak (institutional, congregate care, or workplace) in or outside of Halton > Close contact of a confirmed case > None of the above (indicating community acquisition) > Information pending.
• Cases with episode date on or after April 1: Associated with any type of outbreak (institutional, congregate care, or workplace) in or outside of Halton > Close contact of a confirmed case > Travel > None of the above (indicating community acquisition) > Information pending.
It is important to note that cases can have multiple exposures, and these data reflect only their primary exposure category.
Differences between municipalities have not been assessed for statistical significance. Known cases reflect only individuals who were prioritized for testing prior to the expansion of testing in May, which means that differences between municipalities are currently difficult to ascribe to other factors.

Cases are considered to have been reached within 24 hours if their investigation start date and case reported dates in CCM are no more than one day apart.

Contacts are considered to have been reached within 24 hours if their interview completion date and reported dates in CCM are no more than one day apart.

Our main priority in outbreak management is prevention. Ensuring appropriate measures are being taken by the institutions requires time, in addition to collecting information on the status of the residents. Institutional outbreaks include outbreaks of COVID-19 in settings such as long-term care homes, retirement homes, hospitals and prisons. Outbreaks in congregate care settings (e.g. group homes) and workplaces are not included. Date declared for outbreaks reflects the outbreak classification date in CCM.

Lab testing data reflects only lab tests that have been assigned to Halton Region based on the methodology used by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences. There are several known limitations associated with this data:
• The unit of analysis is the testing episode (unique individuals tested per day). Individuals tested multiple times on different days are counted once in each week’s counts for the appropriate weeks. Testing episodes after the individual’s first confirmed positive COVID-19 test were excluded from subsequent weekly counts (numerator and denominator).
• The COVID-19 test results were captured in the Ontario Laboratories Information System (OLIS). The testing date represents the date of specimen collection: “observation date” in OLIS. Due to the time required for transportation and processing of specimens, it takes six days for approximately 95% of results to be finalized and reported for a given testing date. Some laboratories did not report all or part of their COVID-19 test results to OLIS. Unconsented test results were excluded;
• Counts less than six are suppressed;
• The location of tested individuals was based upon the test recipient’s postal code (and corresponding health unit) recorded in the OHIP Registered Persons Database (RPDB) for those residing outside a long-term care (LTC) facility, and the LTC address on the OLIS test requisition for specimens collected from LTC facilities. These address assignments lead to misclassification of PHU in approximately 14% of individuals

 

Data later
New Interactive Halton COVID-19 Dashboard:
Halton’s new interactive COVID-19 dashboard provides a summary of the current local situation and incorporates core epidemiological indicators of COVID-19 activity in Halton to date. Dashboard users can explore Halton’s COVID-19 data on overall case counts, case demographics, institutional outbreaks and lab testing. The dashboard can be accessed at halton.ca/covid19.

Also, please note that as of July 17, Halton Region Public Health is currently in the process of adopting a new provincial COVID-19 database. During this transitional period, all counts should be considered preliminary and are subject to change as information is reconciled.

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Food Bank has a top ten needs list you might want to do something about.

News 100 yellowBy Pepper Parr

July 31st, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The feeding of people in need is not small potatoes.

Food Banks have been with us for a long time and are going to be with us for much longer. The why of that being the case is another story.

The Burlington Food Bank has been around since the early 90’s.  It is run now by Robin Bailey who has done a yeoman’s job of adapting to the constant change in the needs of the community.

Bailey Food Bank March 31-20

Robin Bailey, Executive Director of the Burlington Food Bank reports regularly to the community on what they have been able to do and where they need help.

A lot of people lost their jobs when everything was locked down last March. There weren’t any jobs available anywhere and the fall back money just couldn’t cover as much as five months.

People who were self-isolated needed help in getting food – the Food Bank was there to deliver it to their door.

Burlington’s Food Bank has a very strong reputation both provincially and federally. They are part of the Feed Ontario set up that is used to funnel food to the local Food Banks

Bailey reports that his organization “just received the annual survey request from Feed Ontario asking us for our self reporting of policies and procedures.

Feed Ontario is truly supportive of the Burlington Food Bank in many ways such as sharing tips on best practices and to check on our regulations compliance with pest control and cleanliness or checking to make sure we’re giving food that meets criteria for expiry.

Food bank volunteers

These are just some of the people who sort the food that comes in and pack the food that goes out

“We want to make sure we comply with all the standards for any Feed Ontario agency, for the benefit and safety of our clients.
Food Banks Canada gives us opportunities to learn more through their online training system so that we can study best practices from across the country. We are the member of both organizations for the City of Burlington and want to continue to lead the way as a visionary Food Bank to continuously learn how to better help our families. We also use our membership in these organizations to continue assisting other community partners in serving our community!

We will be reporting next week on what the Burlington Food Bank has done during the first five months of the pandemic and learning what Bailey expects the job to be in the months and years ahead.

Top ten needs at this point are:

 

  • Peanut Butter
  • Canned Pasta Sauce
  • Canned Tomatoes
  • Juice (Boxes and Litres)
  • Hot Cereal
  • Canned Meat (Chicken, Ham, Turkey)
  • Shampoo, Deodorant, Toothpaste and Toothbrushes
  • Coffee and Tea
  • Crackers
  • Mac and Cheese

 

Bailey closes every report he makes with this statement:
If you are in need or know of someone who could use our help PLEASE have them email us at info@burlingtonfoodbank.ca or call 905-637-2273 to make arrangements to have food dropped at their door or they can now pick it up. If you live in Burlington, we are here to help.

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COVID Alert Available for Download Beginning Today

News 100 redBy Staff

July 31st, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Ontario government is encouraging everyone to download the new COVID Alert app on their smart phone from the Apple and Google Play app stores.

This app, which is available beginning today, lets users know if they may have been exposed to the virus. It is free, easy and safe to use. The more people who download the app, the more effective it will be in stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Work on COVID Alert was initiated in Ontario by the Ontario Digital Service and volunteers at Shopify, and was the foundation of the work by the Government of Canada. The app was developed in consultation with the Privacy Commissioners of Canada and Ontario to ensure the highest level of privacy for everyone using it.

covid virus

If you have been near anyone with this guy – technology can let you know.

“This important, made-in-Ontario COVID Alert app will be a critical part of our case and contact management strategy as more regions in Ontario enter Stage 3 today,” said Premier Doug Ford. “This innovative tool was developed by some of the best and brightest minds in our province, working in partnership with Ottawa. As businesses open their doors and schools prepare for September, we need to help stop the spread and keep others safe by downloading this COVID Alert app.”

The COVID Alert app uses Bluetooth technology to detect when users are near each other. If a user tests positive for COVID-19, they can choose to let other users know without sharing any personal information. Ontarians who receive an exposure alert can then get tested and take action to help keep themselves, their families, and their friends from spreading COVID-19 throughout the community. The app does not collect personal information or health data, and does not know or track the location, name, address, or contacts of any user.

“Built with a privacy-first approach, COVID Alert is a safe and easy-to-use tool that Ontarians can download to protect themselves, their loved ones and their community from COVID-19,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “This Ontario-made app keeps people informed about being potentially exposed to the virus and allows them to act quickly to stop the spread of the virus. It is a key tool in our case and contact management strategy. I encourage all Ontarians to download the app, as early detection of cases will be important as we continue to carefully reopen more of the province.”

COVID Alert is a key tool to strengthen Ontario’s comprehensive case and contact management strategy, Protecting Ontarians through Enhanced Case and Contact Management. The app supports the efforts of public health units, allowing the province to quickly test, trace and isolate cases of COVID-19 to stop the spread of the virus and prepare for any potential outbreaks ― without sharing any personal information.

“As Ontario safely and gradually re-opens, we continue to take a digital-first approach to delivering simpler, faster, better services to support Ontarians, including the COVID Alert app, which will leverage technology to protect the health and safety of the people of Ontario,” said Peter Bethlenfalvy, President of the Treasury Board. “By making it easier for Ontarians to protect themselves, their loved ones and their communities, we continue to deliver on our commitment to build a smarter government that works for you.”

If an app user receives a message from COVID Alert that they may have been exposed to the virus, they should follow the public health advice given on the app and get tested. To notify other people if an app user has tested positive for COVID-19, they can enter their one-time key from Ontario’s test results website (Ontario.ca/covidresults) into the app. A message will then be sent to other app users who have been within two metres of them for at least 15 minutes within the past 14 days, without sending any information that identifies the user, or the time and place of exposure.

graphic covid 4To stay safe as more of the province reopens, Ontarians should continue to follow public health guidelines including physical distancing with people not in their social circle, wearing a face covering if physical distancing is a challenge, washing hands thoroughly and frequently, and if anyone thinks they have COVID-19 or have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, get tested.

 

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Ward Councillor gives us a peek at what they are thinking about.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

July 31st, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Each of the city Councillors maintains a Newsletter which they send out to the constituents – if you’re not on the list – just ask and they will happily add your name,

Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte finds that “City Hall has been an interesting flow of priorities. At first, all of the regular work of the City came to a halt as City Hall, libraries and community centres emptied and all of the focus was moved to the Emergency Response.

Councillor Stolte looking for a response to her motion - put forward last April

Councillor Stolte looking for a response to a  motion she had put forward.

Then, as spring turned into summer the work of the City slowly resumed and began to reopen, and now we are finally at the stage of getting the function of the City fully back up and running while we learn to live in co-existence with this pandemic.

The priority will still be to ensure that the citizens of this city are safe and that our business community can recover and thrive again while we also work hard towards moving this City into the future.

There are many projects on the go from

improving public transit
inspiring environmental initiatives
solidifying the Official Plan
crafting a Housing Strategy
an Affordable Housing Action Plan
introducing automated Speed Enforcement on our city streets
exploring Electoral Reform options

Several of these haven’t been heard of at either a Standing Committee meeting or Council meetings.

The public will want to know a lot more about Speed Enforcement as well as Electoral Reform.

Are these initiatives that Stolte is heading up? She was quite effective with her share the road that resulted in more space for pedestrians to walk around and she got the city to produce a bylaw making the wearing of face masks mandatory. On that face mask issue she had to arm wrestle the Mayor to maintain control of her initiative.

I think we are seeing more information on new issues from the ward Councillor than we are from the Mayor.

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Province tightens up the rules for restaurants, bars, and other food or drink establishments

News 100 redBy Staff

July 31st, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The biggest problem the governments are running into getting the economy running again is the need people have to gather in a bar somewhere, stand elbow to elbow (perhaps cheek to cheek) hoisting a cool one or clinking a wine glass – thereby negating the need to stay six feet apart and not breath in each other’s face.

That’s how the COVID19 virus gets around.

In an effort to reduce close contact between individuals in these settings, the province is implementing additional measures for restaurants, bars, and other food or drink establishments, as the province carefully and gradually reopens.

In order to keep patrons of restaurants, bars, and other food or drink establishments safe, the amended orders will implement the following measures:

What will it be folks• All patrons will be required to be seated at all times, in both indoor and outdoor areas, with limited exceptions; and

• Bars and restaurants (and also tour boat operators) in Ontario will be required to keep client logs for a period of 30 days and to disclose the client logs to the medical officer of health or an inspector under the Health Protection and Promotion Act on request, which will support case and contact tracing.

• Complementary changes are being made in respect of existing provisions relating to tour operators and tour boat operators.

The Chief Medical Officer of Health and other public health experts continue to closely monitor the evolving situation to advise when public health measures or restrictions can be further loosened or if they need to be tightened.

Businesses and sectors unable to open or facing significant difficulties in operating under the current restrictions are invited to visit Ontario.ca/reopen to submit a reopening proposal. Businesses are also encouraged to use the government’s guide to develop a workplace safety plan.

Government officials will work collaboratively with them on a plan to safely reopen, where feasible. The plan will be considered by public health officials and the Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee as part of Ontario’s approach to Stage 3.

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Schools will open in September - elementary classes will be what they were before the pandemic; secondary will be split.

News 100 redBy Staff

July 31st, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

The province announced earlier today that schools would open in September.

Elementary level students will remain a single cohort, five days per week, including for recess and lunch. Further, school boards will be required to provide the full curriculum. Class sizes will remain at the mandated maximum levels in place before the COVID-19 outbreak.

Secondary students in 24 “designated boards” — mainly in urban and suburban areas with relatively high student populations — will attend school on alternating days, in cohorts of about 15.

The Public is going to need some time to absorb this and determine what each household wants to do.

There are a lot of unanswered questions.

Busing students has some problems.

Here is what we do know:

  • Students in grade 4-12 will be required to wear masks with exceptions for things like eating.
  • Mask exemptions will be accommodated for those with valid reasons such as respiratory challenges.
  • For students in JK-Grade 3, masks will be optional but encouraged.
  • Schools will implement additional hand hygiene, cohorting, and distancing.
  • Visitors in schools will be limited and will require pre-registration.
  • Masks will be provided to teachers and staff.
  • If a student or staff member is experiencing any symptoms of the COVID-19, they will be required to stay home.
  • Physical distancing will be implemented as much as possible.
  • Parents are allowed to decide whether their child returns to school in-person this September.
  • Students will have the option of remote learning, which would be delivered by the school board.
  • Any student or staff member who develop COVID-19 symptoms will be immediately separated from others. Staff and parents will then be contacted by their health provider and be informed about COVID-19 testing centres.
  • School staff will receive training on processes and procedures.
  • Organized sports and clubs can proceed if physical distancing can be maintained and equipment is cleaned regularly.

 

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Is Friday going to be a bad news day on the re-opening of schools?

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

July 30th, 20020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Ontario Ministry of Education held a Technical Briefing this afternoon on the plans to re-open schools safely in September.

Shannon Fuller, Assistant Deputy Minister of Strategic Policy and Planning Division, Denys Giguere, Assistant Deputy Minister of French-Language Teaching, Learning and Achievement Division, Dr. David McKeown, Chair of Ontario’s Public Health Measures Table, and Nancy Naylor, Deputy Minister, from the Ministry of Education will be taking part.

A question and answer period followed the briefing. All information provided could not be attributed –it was for background purposes only.

Governments meet with media to outline approaches that are being taken to announcements they intend to make.

We can expect an announcement in the very near future on the re-opening of schools.

Governments tend to issue bad news on Friday afternoons of a long weekend.

We are going into a long weekend.

Tomorrow is a Friday.

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Sick Kids weighs in on when students should return to school.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

July 29th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Every household in the city that has children attending a school are faced with the questions:

When schools re-open will our children be in the classroom?

It is a very personal family decision – that is compounded by the realities of the modern family where Mom and Dad both work.

Once the parents are back at their desks – the kids have to be in school.

While the Premier of the province is doing his best to keep the public fully informed he is also being very cautious and quite loud when he learns of some of the really stupid social behaviour.

He wants students back in schools but he also wants to be certain that he gets it right the first time.

The public is wary of a government that wants things opened up for the sake of the economy – the parents want to be assured that there children will be safe.

The Hospital for Sick Children released a report today that represents the views of the medical community.

Sick kids picture

With a world class reputation – parents can take some comfort in their views on when students can return to school and what the conditions should be.

SickKids has released new proposed guidelines for reopening schools in Ontario come September, including recommendations like staggered lunch times, no large assemblies, and mandatory masks for older students.

It suggests various health and safety protocols for schools that take a student’s age and developmental considerations into account.

The group says it is recommending the use of masks for high school students, with consideration for middle school students, whenever physical distancing can’t be maintained. Around 61 per cent of the authors agreed masks shouldn’t be required for elementary school kids.

“[Mask wearing] probably will diminish the infectivity of some individuals with COVID, however there are also a number of potential harms,” said Dr. Jeffrey Pernica of McMaster Children’s Hospital, saying that masks could distract and interfere with learning, especially for those with articulation problems, neurological issues, or kids who are learning a second language.

He also said that masks would have to be worn correctly in order to be effective, adding that it could be “impractical” for teachers to enforce.

The doctors aren’t recommending that elementary school children wear masks, saying that they could be a distraction and interfere with learning.

Most of the doctors also agreed that if community transmission is low, masking should not be mandatory for students returning to class.

Group of students MMR

This is the number of students who will fill a classroom under COVIID19 conditions. Will they wear masks?

“The lower the level of COVID in the community … the less benefit there is with masking — but the harms remain the same,” Pernica said. “This is why our recommendations are what they are right now.”  Pernica also added that if the levels change, so will the recommendations.

Dr. Sean Ari Bitnun, a physician at SickKids, further emphasized that one single measure wasn’t going to mitigate things — success relies on the package.

“If we’re not focusing on any of the other recommendations, we are bound for disaster,” he said. “It really is the bundle effect that is going to create a safe environment for teachers and students.”

When it comes to physical distancing, the document says its role “should be discussed with students of all ages,” but added it would not be practical to enforce for kids in elementary school, especially during play times.

Instead, the report says “cohorting” — where kids would avoid mixing with other classes and grades — could be used as a strategy.

“Two metres is optimal, but the transmission at one metre is not significantly different,” said Dr. Charles Hui of CHEO.
Other recommendations include:

Implementing strict screening for students and employees who are symptomatic or have been exposed to the virus.
Teaching kids how to clean their hands properly with developmentally and age-appropriate material.
Arranging classroom furniture to leave space between students.

Students playing instruments

The wind instruments won’t get taken out of their cases this school year.

Having smaller class sizes.  Cancelling choir practices, performances, and band because of the high risk of transmission from wind instruments.

Continuing sports and physical education classes, but cleaning sports equipment and delaying team and close contact sports.
Implementing a regular cleaning schedule.

The doctors said that it would be up to each school to figure out how to implement changes when it came to aspects like running school libraries or preventing masses of students from rushing out into the hallways at the end of the school day.

Dr. Bitnun also called for local public health units to closely collaborate with schools, saying that “there will undoubtedly be positive cases with the children and for teachers.”

‘Putting out fires as they come up’

The document stresses that opening schools safely — and keeping them open — will be directly impacted by how the virus is spreading in the community.

The recommendations reflect a mark of less than 200 new confirmed cases a day, and experts say that “may evolve” as the epidemiology of COVID-19 changes and new evidence emerges.

The doctors said they haven’t identified a specific level of community spread that, if breached, would means schools would have to close.

“A specific number in isolation doesn’t really have value,” said Dr. Bitnun. “My view, and I think this is shared by the others, is maybe the most important thing is to have a robust system of testing and contact tracing … in other words, we should focus on, to paraphrase, putting out fires as they come up rather than shutting down everything based on a specific number.”
Staying home could impact already vulnerable students

The experts quoted in the document continue to push for full-time instruction, saying that remote learning would be “insufficient to meet the needs” of youth.

“Thinking about developmental impact and mental health impact has to be in the same equation as the potential harm of COVID,” said Dr. Sloan Freeman, lead pediatrician at St. Michael’s Hospital.

There are risks to Ontario schools reopening full-time but ways to mitigate them, experts say

Going back to part time, they said, would affect working parents and caregivers, and mean bringing more people into the loop, like babysitters or grandparents.

Not going back, doctors say, could impact already vulnerable students the most.

boy behavior

Difficult children will find it hardest to cope with the changes.

“Medically complex children or children with severe underlying medical or behavioural illness, I think those families are disproportionately affected by what is going on in terms of isolation and trying to manage at home,” said Dr. Jeremy Friedman, a pediatrician at SickKids. “I think that those families, more than any others probably, will not be able to withstand the sort of time period we’re talking about for [when] this pandemic has moved into a more stable phase.”

“The sad irony is that I think that the children who are perhaps the most fragile and most at risk, those children, those families are the ones that probably need to have the normality and the routine,” he said.

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Webinar for business people who need answers - those with the answers will be on the panel.

News 100 blueBy Staff

July 29th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

How do you work a business plan during a pandemic?

The fleet of foot are in a constant pivoting position.

The conditions change daily – and the rules have to be revised to recognize and deal with the new reality.

On August 7th there will be a Webinar that pulls together key people directly involved in changing the rules and regualtions when a change is necessary.

During this webinar, businesses will have the opportunity to connect directly with senior City of Burlington staff to understand how the City and its counterparts at Burlington Economic Development are adapting to support businesses during COVID-19 as well as help plan for long-term economic recovery.

The City of Burlington Customer Experience is being re imagined in light of new physical distancing requirements and other COVID-19 adaptations in the workplace. This includes:

• Investing in an online appointment booking application to reduce wait times
• The ability to submit development applications electronically
• Rolling out an “Open for Business” customer service window for easy public access and on-the-spot collaboration and problem-solving
• Adapting to support retail and restaurants to allow the expansion of restaurant space and use of downtown parking for curbside pick-up

Other opportunities for discussion will include Burlington’s mandatory mask by-law, and the launch of the Burlington Economic Recovery Network, a Team Burlington initiative.

Annita Cassidy Hoey retirement

Anita Cassidy, Executive Director of Burlington Economic Development

REGISTER HERE
Moderator
• Anita Cassidy – Executive Director of Burlington Economic Development

Panelists
• Heather MacDonald – Executive Director of Community Planning, Regulation and Mobility
• Jamie Tellier – Acting Director of Community Planning
• Nick Anastasopoulos – Director of Building and By-law, Chief Building Official
• Brynn Nheiley – Manager of Development Planning
• Jenna Puletto – Special Business Area Coordinator, Senior Planner – Official Plan
• Kerry Davren – Manager of Bylaw

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Mayor takes a fashion break - reminds citizens to wash their hands, stick to that six foot rule and wear a mask

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

July 29th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Mayor reports that: “At a special meeting July 28, Burlington City Council approved amendments to our temporary Mask By-law which regulates the use of face masks and coverings within enclosed spaces open to the public.

“The amendments were made for consistency with Halton Region’s Mask Bylaw and on advice received from Halton Region’s Medical Officer of Health.

Meed Ward in a mask

Mayor Meed Ward out and about sporting a fashionably black face mask Missing is a city crest.

“The By-law was implemented in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of the community.

“The changes are now in effect and include:

* Exempting children under the age of five from wearing a mask (previously children under three).

* Requiring parents/guardians of children over five years of age to make a “best effort” to ensure the children wear a mask

* Removing face shields as an acceptable face covering. Public Health information indicates that face coverings need to cover the nose and mouth without gapping

* Updating wording related to “employee-only areas” which are not regulated under the by-law
Applying the Mask By-law to City recreation facilities.

”The updates to our temporary mask by-law will help ensure residents have consistency in the Burlington and Halton Region bylaws”, said the Mayor who added: “Masks are an essential way to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 so we can continue to move forward in reopening businesses and schools and getting back to more of the activities we all enjoy. I encourage all our residents to wear a mask in public indoor spaces to help protect our families, friends, and community.

“The removal of face shields as an alternative to face masks was based on advice from Halton Region’s Medical Officer of Health during discussion at Halton Regional Council of the Region’s mask bylaw. Face shields can be an added layer of protection when worn with a face masks, but based on medical advice are not considered a substitute for a face mask.”

Not everyone agrees with the Mayor. Hopefully the comment from Bruce Lacillade is that of a very small minority. “Again, Marianne, I am disappointed in you. Forcing citizens to give up their humanity and be treated as nothing more than a disease! Masking is only another step toward total control of society; you know that. The coronavirus is an influenza virus nothing more.

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Announcement on school openings will be made on August 10th.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

July 29, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

Aug 10th, when we know what direction the Ministry has given us

 

How many people are missing those Back to School Sales flyers that would normally be stuffed inside whatever gets dropped off at your house?

Most parents are wondering just when (some ask if) school is going to start. September 7th is the scheduled resumption of classes but at this point no one at any of the school boards knows what the province is going to dictate.

Blackwell and Miller at itsem Nov 2018

HDSB Superintendent Terri Blackwell speaking with Director of Education Stuart Miller

School boards from across the province have been meeting with Ministry of Education officials setting out how they would teach under one of the three scenarios the province outlines:

All teaching done remotely

All teaching done in schools with classes limited to 15 students

An Alternative approach that was a combination of the other two scenarios.

The Halton District School Board (HDSB) has prepared a very detailed schema for the elementary and secondary students. They have not released the details because they don’t yet know what the province is going to direct them to deliver.

HDSB Director of Education Stuart Miller didn’t want to confuse parents by sending out information that may prove not to be applicable.

What the School Board will be doing is sending a questionnaire to parents asking if they plan to send their children back to school when the province clears the way. Miller and his staff want to know if the parents will send their children to a school or if they want them to be taught remotely.

We know now that there will not be gym classes, French classes will be limited and that there will not be any extra-curricular or co-curricular activities.

The bigger question for many is: How long will school have to operate under these restrictions? All of the 20-21 academic year?

An announcement of some sort was expected by the ends of this week – the Gazette has since learned that an announcement will be made on August 10th.

 

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Burlington Foundation comes through for 18 community groups

News 100 yellowBy Staff

July 28th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

How do you spend $350,000 + in a hurry?

You give it away – which is just what the Burlington Foundation did when it announced it has awarded $335,370 in grants to 18 charities to address critical needs affecting vulnerable community members in Burlington greatly impacted by COVID-19. The grants announced today are part of the Emergency Community Support Fund (ECSF), funded by the Government of Canada.

The ECSF is a $350 million fund that is being implemented with Community Foundations of Canada, in partnership with local foundations across the country, the Canadian Red Cross and United Way Centraide Canada. Its goal is to provide support to charities and non-profit organizations serving vulnerable Canadians.

BCF logo“The tremendous impact the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have on our vulnerable community members and our front-line charities serving them, is truly unprecedented,” said Colleen Mulholland, President and CEO of Burlington Foundation. “We’re proud to have participated in the ECSF partnership with Community Foundations of Canada, the Government of Canada and other community partners, as together, we are stronger in bringing critical support at the local level to those most in need.”

BCF Mulholland + sign new logo

Colleen Mulholland, President and CEO of Burlington Foundation at the launch of the new corporate graphic.

All of these outstanding initiatives support our most vulnerable citizens including seniors, children and youth, community members with disabilities and those suffering from mental health crisis, and persons experiencing food insecurity or unsafe housing situations.

“Since the pandemic began to impact our community in March, Burlington Foundation’s priority has been on helping our front-line charities and our vulnerable community members that they serve,” says Colleen Mulholland. “Together, through the federal ECSF program, as well as Burlington Foundation’s own Covid-19 Pandemic Response Fund made possible by generous Foundation donors and fundholders, we are so pleased to have granted $560,040 over the past four months to local charities.”

 

Foundation 1

 

Foundation 2

foundation 3

foundation 4

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Terry Fox and the Carden girls

terry-fox-running-across-from-monument

Terry Fox running through Burlington on his Marathon of Hope in 1980. The lives of millions of Canadians were changed forever by the courage of a very young man.

The Terry Fox Run for Cancer Research, an annual event in Burlington since 1981, won’t take place this year – the social distancing rules determined by the COVID19 pandemic doesn’t permit large gatherings. And Terry Fox events are very large gatherings

There is a collection of people who have done outstanding community service to grow the event to the point where they have raised $2.2 million.

They were not prepared to just let the event dribble away – it was going to take more than a pandemic to close them down.
The committee running the virtual event this year has taken a very creative approach to informing the community and telling parts of the unknown story.

Profiles of the people who got the event to where it is today appear on the Terry Fox Burlington Facebook page and are being republished by the Gazette with permission.

 

By Burlington Terry Fox Run Committee
July 28th, 2020
BURLINGTON, ON

carden family on promenade

The Camden’s: Isabelle, Grace Sean and Tanya sitting in Spencer Smith Park.

It’s been over three years since the Carden girls, Grace, now 11, and Isabelle, now 9, asked their parents if they could have a lemonade stand. Parents, Tanya and Sean resisted, but the girls kept asking, as young children often do, and a compromise was made.

Izzy and Grace could have a lemonade stand in their complex, but only if the money went towards a charitable cause. Mom, Tanya Blizzard-Carden, had already signed up for the Burlington Terry Fox Run, so it was settled that that would be their cause of choice.

Armed with markers, the girls made signs and the family whipped up some lemonade and a few baked goods to sell. The event was such a success that they decided to make it an annual fundraiser.

Sisters Grace and Isabelle
Upping their game (with a little help and support)
Due to the popularity of the baked goods, Tanya had to expand their menu. Several family members got involved to bake. Last year they even added gluten-free options to make it more inclusive. Everything sold!

As you can imagine, when a simple lemonade stand expands beyond one’s expectations, and you’re donating all the money to charity, it gets expensive. Sean and Tanya recognized that they needed some help. Isabelle and Grace approached the local No Frills and the owner was happy to supply them with the ingredients they needed to bake and make lemonade and iced tea.

Carden girls with lemonade stand

The Carden girls were out there selling their lemonade to support the Terry Fox Run for a Cure for Cancer.

The family also got a lot of support from Burlington Dads, a community group of local dads that Sean Carden is a member of. Many of the Burlington Dads showed up from all across the city and donated 10, 20, 50 even a 100 dollars to the cause after Sean told them what the girls were doing.

Last year, a family friend who’s a firefighter showed up at the lemonade stand with a fire truck, which was fun for the kids.

Why Terry Fox?
The Terry Fox Run was a natural fit for the Cardens, as they had personally been touched by cancer, as many of us are. They were also looking for an organization that they could support as a family.

The Burlington Terry Fox run is a very inclusive event. We welcome people of all ages and abilities to take part. For Tanya and Sean it was nice that they could all do it together.

What about 2020?
Due to the current Covid-19 situation, the Carden family knows that there cannot be a lemonade stand this year. However, as a family they are determined to do something to raise money for Terry Fox.

When I asked them if they had any advice for people facing difficulties this year, Sean had this to say:

CArden girls with fire fighters

Burlington Fire Fighters dropped by for a cool one.

“This year has been strange on so many levels. I’ve said to people, ‘we’re figuring this out together.’ No one knows what’s going to happen next week, but we deal with it together. If Terry Fox and the Foundation is something you have supported, either financially or getting out and doing the walk or run, in the past, stick with it. Even though it’s not going to be the same, it will be some semblance of normal.”

And Isabelle said that she would want to do the run on any day because she just wants to help people. Her final message to me was that she just wants everyone to be happy and safe. With comments like those, you can tell she will be a Terry Foxer for life.

 

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The Eyes Have It - and the number of new infections suggest we are getting it right.

News 100 blueBy Staff

July 28th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The people at GO, the bus and train operation that moves many of us from place to Place did a photo feature that we want to share with you.

At the start of this year, few could have seen the day that wearing non-medical face masks in public would be a very normal accessory. Now, after a week of having to wear them on UP and GO vehicles, the focus is turned on the customer, in a photo feature that pays tribute to their style.

It’s been a week since the use of non-medical masks became mandatory for customers on GO Transit and UP Express. Not that many riders needed much convincing, as most were using them even before they were required as of last Tuesday.

Now as essential as carrying a cell phone or wallet, face coverings have changed the look of everything from transit to shopping to going to the dentist. But while the thin barriers hide the better part of everyone’s face, the personality can still come through.

GO father daughter

That is a very determined and direct look from the young lady with the pink glasses – while on the right the quiet beauty of a GO transit rider.

Here are some faces behind those face coverings.

GO oriental

three girls waiting

Waiting for their ride. Go transit riders have taken to wearing their face masks

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Mayor says federal - provincial money will arrive in the city 'soon'

News 100 blueBy Staff

July 27th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward passed along some “ great news today when the province announced $4 billion in funding for cities for COVID19-related revenue loss and added costs. The amount includes $2 billion for transit, half from the federal government, match by half from the province.”

Mayor Meed Ward and Premier - Dec 2018

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward with Premier Doug Ford at a Joseph Brant Hospital event.

“This is our tax dollars coming back to our community”, said the Mayor. “These funds will help municipalities avoid service cuts, unreasonable tax increases, or depleting reserves beyond sustainable levels. Our advocacy worked, and our voices were heard.

Let’s wait until the budget is final before taking that statement at face value. Burlington will get a portion of that $4 billion. The Mayor said she “ expects funding to begin to flow in coming weeks.

The funding is a partnership with the federal government for urgently needed one-time assistance to Ontario’s 444 municipalities. This funding will help local governments maintain the critical services people rely on every day, including public transit, over the next six to eight months.

Premier Ford worked collaboratively with municipal partners, fellow Premiers, Prime Minister Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Freeland to reach this historic agreement, which includes $777 million from the federal government and $1.22 billion from the province in support for municipalities. Ontario will continue to work closely with its municipal partners to ensure this funding provides the support they need to address budget shortfalls related to COVID-19.

“Ontario municipalities told us they are dealing with a $4 billion shortfall as a result of COVID-19,” said Minister Phillips. “Failing to act could result in cuts to services and higher taxes. That’s why, under Premier Ford’s leadership, Ontario was a strong advocate at the negotiating table to ensure municipalities and transit systems were supported as part of the Safe Restart Agreement. This is a historic level of support that’s being provided during unprecedented times.”

Through Ontario’s leadership, a deal for public transit funding was also secured as part of the federal-provincial agreement. Up to $2 billion will be shared equally between Ontario and the federal government. Transit operators that have seen steep declines in revenues will receive the support they need to help address the financial impacts of COVID-19 and continue their operations in a safe manner.

The Safe Restart Agreement will help ensure a strong and safe recovery for Ontario through investments in testing, contact tracing and data management; health care capacity and mental health; protecting vulnerable populations, including people experiencing homelessness and seniors in long-term care facilities; securing personal protective equipment (PPE); child care for returning workers; and support for municipalities and public transit systems.

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Region Releases Community Investment Fund Grants for 2020

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

July 27th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

werfgt

Halton Regional government offices are located in Oakville

The Halton Region Community Investment Fund (HRCIF) supports a wide range of non-profit health and social service programs that enhance the health, safety and well-being of Halton residents.

The Fund provides one-year and multi-year grants to programs and initiatives through two categories of funding and is part of Halton’s overall approach to community safety and well-being planning.

Funding from the Federal and Provincial governments is included in programs that support the health, safety and well-being of residents as the community recovers from the impact of COVID-19.

Applications for single year and multiple year funding for 2020 have closed the Region released the programs that are funded.

• $193,340 to Wesley Urban Ministries to support case management and rehousing efforts for single individuals across Halton.

• $176,230 to Food for Life to expand food access points, deliver food boxes to high needs households and provide outreach programming.

• $67,937 to Acclaim Health to support the well-being and lessen the isolation of older adults.

• $29,869 to Canadian Mental Health Association – Halton Region Branch to provide free counselling for residents 16 years old and older.

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Has Party Politics Crept into the Serious Problem of Getting Students Back into Classrooms in September

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

July 27th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Ontario Liberals have found their tongues and come out with a fully-costed plan to get students back into classrooms safely and in classrooms no larger than 15 students.

Steven Del Duca, leader of the Liberal Party in Ontario who does not yet have a seat in the Legislature announced a Schools Action Plan calls for 1,300 new classroom locations, the hiring of 890 additional educators and 340 additional caretakers in Halton. These measures enable safe, physically-distanced learning, which is the first step in getting parents back to work and reopening the economy.

“Students and their parents in Halton have been waiting for far too long to hear what will happen in September,” said Del Duca. “Living with this uncertainty has caused unnecessary anxiety during what has already been a stressful time. Getting our students back to school safely is what kids critically need for their own development and it’s the only way their Moms and Dads can have peace of mind to return to work.

Steven Del Duca

Steven Del Duca, a Cabinet Minister in the Wynne government that was defeated by Doug Ford, was elected leader of the Ontario Liberal Party recently.   He does not yet have a seat in the provincial Legislature.

“Since the government hasn’t unveiled a plan for the fall, I did,” said Steven Del Duca.

“Doug Ford should have made this a priority months ago by meaningfully consulting with school boards, teachers, education workers, principals and parents. He has not.”

“We need students in classrooms and we know that while distance learning obviously needs vast improvement as a complement to future learning, the high quality and safe in-class experience needs to be front and centre in our plans for this Fall. It is the responsibility of the Premier to develop a plan to achieve this safely, including sufficient training and support.”

“Reopening the economy without full day school in September puts families in impossible situations. It forces parents to choose between their children’s education and their work. We have heard too many stories of parents – working mothers in particular – who have had to give up their careers because Doug Ford has yet to share a plan and won’t help them with childcare.”

“Ford’s priorities are beer, bars and booze — it’s time to deliver on a better, stronger and safer public education for our kids.”

“We need to ensure schools are a safe place to learn and a safe place to work. That’s why my plan dramatically expands the number of classrooms and educators.”

Del Duca’s Students in Schools Action Plan will cost $3.2 billion* and will fund:

– 15,000 More Elementary Teachers to reduce class size to 15 – $1.30 billion
– 10,000 More Caretakers to keep elementary and secondary schools clean – $500 million
– 14,000 New Classrooms in Community Centres, Campuses, Arenas, etc. – $200 million
– 2,000 More Secondary Teachers – $170 million
– School Transportation (Cleaning, Retrofits, Staggered Starts) – $80 million
– Sufficient Cleaning/Hygiene Supplies and Equipment – $120 million
– 1,500 Special Education Professionals to Help Close Learning Gaps $120 million
– New equipment for students and educators (approx. 400,000 new devices) – $200 million
– Reverse PC Cuts to School Mental Health and hire 1,000 more Mental Health Professionals to support staff and students – $75 million
– Provincial Leadership in Centrally Procuring and Purchasing Personal Protective Equipment for Students and Staff (e.g., face shields, masks, gloves) – $110 million
– Support Parental Engagement and Communication – $25 million
– Public Health Coordination of Screening, Testing and Contact Tracing N/A – Contingency (10%) – $290 million

*This is a one-time funding plan for the 2020-21 school year, after which, a vaccine may likely be available. Regardless, the government should begin planning for 2021-22 as early as possible.

In Halton (HDSB & HCDSB) this means:

– 1,300 new classroom locations in community centres, campuses, arenas, etc.
– 890 additional educators to reduce class sizes
– 340 additional caretakers to keep schools and school buses clean

“The choice is between students in schools or the chaos that Doug Ford’s unclear approach will create. We need to make it safe for students in Halton to learn – it is the only way they will thrive, and it will enable their parents to go back to work,” concluded Del Duca.

Do we have a political party deciding that now is a good time to play some politics?

The Halton District School Board is meeting with the Ministry of Education virtually on Tuesday and will have a program in place and ready to be announced early in August.

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Look for tents to be set up to help the hospitality sector recover from the lockdown and limitations they had to live with during Stage 2.

News 100 yellowBy Pepper Parr

July 27th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

There have been 38 applications for patios on private property and 12 on city property for outdoor locations where people can dine and enjoy a cool one.

There are a number of applications in process.

tents

Dining alfresco in downtown Burlington: it will be interesting to see how creative the restaurateurs can get.

The city is now going to consider allowing temporary tents as well.

The bylaw that is in place for outdoor patios has to be repealed first and a new bylaw out in place.

Council will meet as a Standing Committee Tuesday morning and will then meet as a Council and approve the new bylaw.

Let’s see how that goes. We will of course report on how this works out. There are a few locations that are in the process of erecting tents – which suggests this is a done deal.

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What if science is beaten by COVID-19 and our only recourse is permanent revision to our way of life?

background graphic redBy Pepper Parr

July 25th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

What’s next?

Does anyone know?

An interesting comment from an individual who brings an “intelligence, strategic analysis” lens to the COVID19 problem and posits that “none of us knows for sure what the virus will do tomorrow”.

covid virus

We still do not know with absolute certainty where COVID-19 comes from.

“This virus repeatedly defies rational predictions and empirical deductions based on cumulative experience with earlier viruses like Ebola, HIV and SARS.

“None of us knows for sure what the virus will do tomorrow. Experts predicted the virus would disappear over the summer and return over the fall and winter months. Instead, in some parts of the world, including the United States, the number of active cases has erupted. COVID-19 was also not supposed to spread so easily among youth; turns out it does, yet its severity among youth is so negligible that they don’t take it seriously. This renders it all the more difficult to prevent the virus from spreading.

“We still do not know with absolute certainty where COVID-19 comes from. An animal? (Which animal?) Was it an accidental leak from a laboratory? Experts are still arguing over the manner in which the virus becomes airborne: Big aerosol droplets, little aerosol droplets, or both? How far do they really “fly”? To which surfaces does COVID-19 stick, and for how long?

“In other words, half a year into this pandemic, we still do not know exactly where and why COVID-19 is likely to thrive or die, and how it is transmitted.

“Do those who recover from the virus have long-term immunity? Short-term immunity? Can they still transmit the virus? Ask again in five years when they are retested. Right now we do not know, and this is deeply disturbing.

“Meanwhile, we are deluged with predictions regarding the nature of our lives in the post-virus era. Distance learning? Virtual work? Masses demanding to leave heavily-populated areas? De-globalization? Ten years of recession? More expensive air travel? Radical shifts toward more authoritarian governance?

“All these questions are speculative, and no one really knows the answers. Two years from now we might be back to business as usual – or not.

“This, too, is extremely unsettling. Here is perhaps the most worrisome aspect of the COVID-19 conundrum: We tell ourselves that until there is an effective vaccine made available for universal use, this virus has to be understood as a very clever and dangerous enemy. Once this vaccine has been mass-produced and distributed globally, however, we can certainly go back to normal.

“But what if it proves impossible to create a viable vaccine with long-lasting effects? What if there is no post-virus era? What if science is beaten by COVID-19 and our only recourse is a radical and permanent revision of our way of life? Is our absolute confidence in the emergence of an effective inoculation any more justified than some of our earlier mistaken assumptions regarding this virus?

“In intelligence terms, we simply don’t know.”

Excerpted from an opinion piece by Yossi Alpher, Globe and Mail

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School Board Chair and Director of Education for HDSB comment on how plans for a return to school are being put together

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

July 24th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Trustees Grebencand Gray BEST

Trustee Grebenc with trustee Grey at a public meeting.

In an interview with Halton District School Board Chair Andrea Grebenc on the issue of masks for teachers and students while they are in schools Ms Grebenc said: “The Minister and Public Health officials have not decided about whether students require masks. I understand that decision may be coming next week.

“To supply PPE to staff it looks like it will cost about $20M over the year at the pricing we can get. We are asking the Province to help source PPE to get better pricing.

“We have $4M set aside for COVID contingency and as a result, we had to pass another deficit (but compliant) budget this year with a solid plan from our staff to return to the black.

“At this point, the Minister has provided a similar budget funding as previous years with an expansion of funds to help with the new math curriculum and some mental health initiatives. The increase in our dollar amount has more to do with increase in enrollment in Milton and Oakville, the decrease of the class size average(resulting in hiring teachers) and some money to support some positions won at the provincial level through education worker and teacher union negotiations.

Grebenc - expressive hands

Andrea Grebenc during a a first term interview .

“The Minister has added only $56M to the provincial budget for COVID – there are 72 boards – that is $750K each if divided equally (which I hope it’s not – TDSB shouldn’t get the same amount as a small board).

“This is to help with cleaning staff and supplies, PPE and transportation. If HDSB PPE costs $2M a month for staff, you can see how this amount of money from the Minister is completely unrealistic and could not support masking students as well.
We have over 66,000 students. There would have to see a massive influx of cash from the Province to cover that cost.

“If the Minister or public health state that masks were mandatory in schools, as a parent with kids in the system, I would then see masks like I see binders for courses or running shoes for gym class – something I would buy (or make) for my child so they are prepared for school.

“Also, I would want to make sure a mask fits well on my child, is comfortable and won’t get mixed up with other kids’ masks. You can get reusable masks inexpensively at a number of places ($3 each at Old Navy for example) and for Burlington residents, the Mayor and Councillor Stolte, in conjunction with the fire department, have set up a mask donation centre to help those that are having a hard time affording masks. Economically challenged families in our system could also contact the Halton Learning Foundation to help get a reusable mask so that students could attend school (if that is the law).”

Miller July 22

Director of Education Stuart Miller during a virtual school board meeting.

Director of Education Stuart Miller points out the principals in ever Halton school (there are 105 of them) know their students and is aware of households where things are tough;” a way is always found to ensure that students get what they need.”

Director Miller and several of his key staff will be doing a virtual interview with Ministry of Education officials on Tuesday at which time they expect to learn what the province is looking for in the way of a safe return to school program.

The province set out several scenarios that HDSB has responded to. “We have to be able to offer a program that meets the provincial mandate and at the same time be flexible enough to shift the way classes are delivered in the event that there is a hot spot in a school or a larger community.

“We will be working with the public health unit on a daily basis to monitor the students – watching for the tell-tale sign of a student who is not well.

“It is going to be a stressful time but we have done our homework and we believe we are prepared for students who will return to classes in one form or another on the 7th of June.

“We haven’t given the parents all that much in the way of information” said Miller, “because we don’t have decisions from the province.”

“Once we know what the program is going to be – we will communicate at every level with the parents.”

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