Quebec considers closing schools to slow COVID transmission: In The News for Nov. 13

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Nov. 13 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

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The COVID-19 situation continues to spiral in many parts of the country as provinces struggle to deal with rising case counts and quickly filling hospitals.

In Ontario, the latest modelling suggests that a five per cent virus growth rate, which is seen as a "slightly optimistic" scenario, would put Ontario on track for 6,500 new cases a day by mid-December. Under a three per cent growth rate, it would be 2,500 cases daily.

The numbers mean Ontario might have to start cancelling planned surgeries.

In Quebec, Premier Francois Legault says he was considering temporarily closing schools to reduce COVID-19 transmission.

Legault says 1,174 classrooms across the province are currently closed, but most alarming was that 324 of them had been shut in the last two days.

And new public health measures were to come into effect today in Alberta, where cases continue to climb.

Indoor group sports and fitness classes in major centres are to be stopped for two-weeks, along with amateur singing, dancing and theatre groups.

Bars, lounges and pubs must stop serving alcohol by 10 p.m. and close at 11 p.m. in certain hard-hit areas and the government is "strongly recommending" there be no social gatherings in homes.

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Also this ...

Local and provincial officials are calling on bikers to sit out their traditional Friday the 13th pilgrimage to Port Dover, Ont., because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hordes of motorcyclists typically descend on the beach town every Friday the 13th, with provincial police regularly reporting upwards of 100,000 attendees.

The mayor of Norfolk County, where Port Dover is located, says she knows that the motorcycle rally is important to the community, but that going ahead with it would put the area at risk.

Kristal Chopp says that if people don't sit out this event, it could lead to a spike in cases that would force the province to put further public health restrictions on the area.

The Friday the 13th rally isn't a formal event, so the county isn't able to "cancel" it, but officials note that they've taken steps to discourage attendance, such as refusing to grant permits to vendors.

Premier Doug Ford says he understands that thousands of people were looking forward to the rally, but that this year, it's just not feasible.

"Folks, we just can't have thousands of people getting together right now," he said on Thursday. "It's just way, way too risky."

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And ...

COVID-19 testing is down more than 25 per cent in November even as the number of positive cases soars in most provinces.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says fewer than 55,000 tests were done on average each day over the past week, compared to 61,000 last week and 77,000 in mid-October.

Deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo says many provinces have narrowed their testing criteria to try to target people who are at the highest risk of having COVID-19.

In Ottawa, where people were waiting in lines for hours to get a test in September, the city is cutting back hours at one testing site this weekend because dozens of appointments are going unfilled.

Ottawa's medical officer, Dr. Vera Etches, says in her city some of the decline may be due to a lowering infection rate — bucking Ontario's overall trend of rising cases.

But Etches says she still wants more people to get tested even if they only have very mild symptoms, because we need to find as many people with COVID-19 as we can.

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On this day in 1998 ...

Michel Trudeau, 23, the youngest son of former Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau, drowned in Kokanee Lake after being swept away by an avalanche while back-country skiing in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park, B.C.

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In sports ...

Western Canadians tired of isolating at home are filling the slopes at mountain ski resorts that are opening earlier than usual as worries rise about surging cases of COVID-19.

Two Banff National Park resorts have had their earliest openings on record thanks to abundant snow and cold temperatures needed for machine-made snow — 95-year-old Banff Norquay opened Oct. 24 and Lake Louise, about 40 year old in its current form, opened Oct. 29.

Nakiska Ski Area, about 100 kilometres west of Calgary, opened for weekend preview skiing last weekend (it goes seven days a week as of Nov. 27), and Sunshine Village Ski Resort opened on Monday.

Marketing director Simon Moffat says lift tickets sales have been brisk at Norquay despite having only one of its four chairlifts open. The resort is selling tickets by reservation only and on the first day reached a self-imposed cap on sales to limit crowding in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At Lake Louise, meanwhile, director of communications Dan Markham says seven of 10 lifts were open on Tuesday, along with 50 of 160 runs. The resort recommends buying passes or tickets before coming to the hill but does sell tickets there and has no limits on attendance.

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ICYMI ...

Newfoundland and Labrador public health officials have issued advice for those looking to stay COVID-safe while marauding around town with underwear on the outside of their clothes.

At a news conference Thursday, the province’s chief medical officer of health asked residents to stick to their households of close contacts while mummering this holiday season.

Mummering is a popular Christmas tradition in Newfoundland and Labrador in which revellers go door to door, completely disguised, often with underwear over their clothes.

It’s common for mummers to pad their behinds and wear pillowcases or doilies over their faces with the eyes cut out.

Mummers first ask if they’re allowed in and then burst into homes to dance, sing and drink while the host tries to guess who they are. Shane Mills, a St. John's-based film director, jokes that when it comes to mummers, this year he'll be following the protocols he learned from years of watching horror movies.

"If you’re wearing a pillow case and banging on my door, I’m not letting you in," he said in a Facebook message.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 13, 2020

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