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COVID-19: Here's the situation in the Sault this week

Two new cases reported in Algoma this week
COVID testing
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Public Health Ontario has reported 826 new COVID-19 cases today.

This week, new confirmed cases in the province ranged from a low of 658 on Sunday and a high of 841 on Thursday.

As flu and cold season descends upon us, the provincial government has announced emergency orders will be extended until Nov. 21.

With COVID-19 cases still on the rise in the United States, the federal government has made the decision to extend the Canada-U.S. border closure until at least Nov. 21.

Here's the latest local, provincial, and federal news regarding COVID-19 cases and funding that you need to know:

Two new cases reported by Algoma Public Health this week

Early on Sunday morning, SooToday reported an inmate at the Sault jail tested positive for COVID-19. 

OPSEU Local 678 President Josh Miller said the test results were received over the weekend as part of an ongoing testing program for recently-admitted offenders. Algoma Public Health confirmed the positive case on Monday.

On Thursday, APH confirmed the 41st case in the region.

Currently, there are two active cases in the Algoma region.

Here are the latest COVID-19 numbers from Algoma Public Health, updated on Friday: 

  • 52,329 tested
  • 41 positive
  • 2 active
  • 0 deceased
  • 39 resolved

Total confirmed cases by area of residence: 

  • 36 in Sault Ste. Marie and area, with evidence of community spread
  • 2 in central and east Algoma
  • 3 in Elliot Lake and area
  • 0 in north Algoma

Here's what COVID-19 trick-or-treating looks like according to Algoma Public Health

Algoma Public Health and Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health have advice for the ghouls and goblins planning on going door to door in pursuit of candy.

Regions in Stage 3, such as the Sault, are encouraged to practice social distancing, wear a mask, and only trick or treat with members of your household. More details on the recommendations can be found here.

City prepared to work to keep patios open into November

As COVID-19 persists longer than anyone initially thought likely, some downtown eateries are preparing to keep their patios open even as snowflakes start to fall.

This past week, City Hall sent emails to all restaurants with patios, advising that an earlier planned closing date of Oct. 15 had been extended further to Oct. 31. Read more on the Sault's patio situation here.

School boards provide updates on learning in the age of COVID-19

After many students, staff and parents were looking forward to a return to classrooms in September (though having to abide by many COVID-19 restrictions), circumstances for some Sault and area elementary and secondary school students have forced them to once again leave their bricks and mortar, face-to-face education for instruction through a laptop at home.

A number of factors have led those students to switch from classroom learning to remote learning so far in the current school year. You can read more on that here.

Specifically, numbers received from the Huron-Superior board last weekend show 493 elementary and 98 secondary students within its system have chosen remote learning so far for the current school year. You can read more about the situation at the Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board here.

College aviation program suspends new enrolment

Due to COVID-19’s devastating effect on the airline industry worldwide, first year enrolment in Sault College’s aviation program, a longtime pillar among the institution’s program offerings, has been suspended for the 2020-21 school year.

That means there are 92 less students in the program, unable to socially distance from instructors in the program’s smaller planes. Read more from SooToday's Darren Taylor.

Local employment levels up, but local economy won't get back to normal for a while

COVID-19 has rocked the economy, and the Sault's businesses have not been immune to to financial impacts caused by lockdown measures.

Many people have lost their jobs or been laid off. However, the latest unemployment numbers as reported by the Algoma Workforce Investment Corporation (AWIC) prove hopeful. Read more on the report here.

Meanwhile, the Station Mall will soon see another retail outlet shut its doors. Le Chateau is filing for CCAA protection as it plans to liquidate all 123 stores. The Montreal-based company cites economic hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal and provincial governments react to to steady COVID-19 numbers

In addition to Ontario's emergency orders getting extended another month, the provincial government has also urged Ontarians to pursue legal action if they believe a loved one died in a seniors home due to negligence. The passing of new COVID-19 liability legislation won't protect long-term care providers from being sued, the premier said this week. 

Dozens of homes across the province are currently facing numerous lawsuits, including several class-action suits with unproven claims in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

While the federal government has confirmed the Canada-U.S. border will remain closed until at least Nov. 21, Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam acknowledged that confusion over appropriate public health measures is understandable, given the fact that the pandemic is playing out differently across different provinces and territories. However, Tam reiterated this week that evolving science surrounding COVID-19 is the reason for inconsistent messaging, which is why keeping up to date on the latest public health information is critical.

Part of this collective effort includes top defence officials ordering Canadian troops to keep their guard up against COVID-19.  Officials expect more military personnel to get infected as schools and businesses remain open.

Meanwhile, The Ontario Long-Term Care Association is urging the federal government to help them secure liability insurance for COVID-19. The association says its homes are being offered new policies without the key provision. 

In terms of fighting the virus long-term, Trudeau announced today that rapid tests have arrived in Canada and are being dispersed to the provinces and territories. The feds are also planning to spend $214 million on Canadian-made vaccines. 

Provincial health officials say Ontario is set to receive and roll out roughly 100,000 rapid tests next month, starting with rural communities.

Long-term care inquiry continues in Ontario

Long-term care homes in Ontario are dealing with severe staffing shortages and may not be ready to deal with the second wave of the pandemic, an independent commission has heard this past week.

A dearth of staff was one of the main reasons COVID-19 devastated nursing homes in the spring, the Ontario Long-Term Care Association told an independent commission investigating how the virus spread in the long-term care system.

Recommendatons released today by the commission urge the Ontario government to address critical staffing shortages in long-term care homes as the second wave of the pandemic intensifies.

Read more about the inquiry here.

New program aims to help youth with mental health during COVID-19 pandemic

The New Northern Mentality Group, a youth mental health advocacy group supported by Algoma Family Services, is hoping to help local youth aged 12-25 take care of their mental health during this time. Read the full story here.

Christmas Cheer will go ahead this year, but the volunteer-run organization says it won’t be accepting donations of any used items from the public or collecting food items from schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more about how the fundraiser will work here.

COVID-19 takes its toll on local non-profits

Crime Stoppers of Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma District, like many other non-profits, hasn't been able to fundraise since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has left them looking for alternative ways to generate funding. Read more from Crime Stoppers here.

Also impacted by the ongoing pandemic, Coats for Kids is cancelled this year. It has been postponed to 2021.

In response to the impact of COVID-19, the federal government has announced it will provide $306,000 for local non-profits. Organizations receiving funding are the Welcome Friend Association (virtual Rainbow Camp for LGBTQ2S+ youth), Salvation Army (food delivery), Sault Ste. Marie Soup Kitchen Community Centre (food services), Habitat for Humanity (mortgage relief for clients), Canadian Mental Health Association (mental health counselling), VON Algoma (seniors programming), Kidney Foundation (transportation for dialysis patients, peer support programming), ARCH Hospice (tablets), Algoma Family Services (seniors food box program). 

Local company invents COVID-19 screening app

A Sault Ste. Marie software development company has created a mobile phone app known as saniTrakr, a paperless, time-saving COVID-19 screening solution for employers and employees alike. Read more about the local company here.

Garden centre says plant sales hit an all time high this year

A positive effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has been that Saultites have gotten up to much more gardening this past summer. A local garden centre says plant sales were at an all time high this year, especially when it came to people planting gardens to produce food for their families. Read the full story by SooToday's Zaafina Naqvi here.

WestJet to refund some passengers whose flights have been cancelled due to COVID-19

WestJet says it will begin providing refunds to passengers who had their WestJet and Swoop flights cancelled by the airlines as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company says the refunds — the first offered by Canadian airlines — will be in the original form of payment rather than a credit for future flights as it had been previously offering.