News

Canadian Provinces Are Reopening But Some People Worry It's Too Soon

Countries that have eased physical distancing have seen spikes in COVID-19 cases. Plus, a slaughterhouse in Alberta is sending staff back to work after half of its workers tested positive for the virus.
May 4, 2020, 2:28pm
Busy Montreal park
People enjoyed a warm weekend in Montreal even though physical distancing measures are still in place as 

the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Photo by Graham Hughes (CP)

Several Canadian provinces have started to reopen this week, even though they were among the worst hit by the coronavirus and continue to report cases in the double digits.

Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan all have plans for a limited reopening this week.

Despite acting as Canada’s virus hotspot, with 31,865 cases and 2,205 deaths, Quebec is reopening retail stores with entrances that lead outside on Monday everywhere except in the Greater Montreal area.

Stores in Montreal are expected to follow suit next week, but Quebec’s Premier Francois Legault said plans will change if the region’s COVID-19 situation gets worse.

Quebec has also announced plans to reopen elementary schools outside of Montreal starting May 11, prompting anxiety among parents and school boards. The decision was partly made because the risk of younger children developing complications from the virus is low, Legault said.

High schools and universities will not reopen until the fall.

Ontario is the second hardest hit province (17,553 cases and 1,216 deaths) but is also opening up earlier than expected, with seasonal businesses—garden centres, landscaping businesses—and construction sites that can maintain physical distancing opening on Monday.

“We’re seeing a gradual downward slope in the public domain,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford told reporters on Saturday. “The lower we get the more we can open up and get back to… the new normal.”

Ford distinguished between the gradual slowdown in cases in the “public domain” and outbreaks in long-term care homes that continue to affect the elderly disproportionately.

Alberta already started reopening over the weekend, with limited park access and golf courses now available. Healthcare services, including non-urgent surgeries, dentistry, and physiotherapy are starting up again on Monday.

People in every province are still expected to keep at least two metres or six feet apart from each other.

Experts anticipate a second wave of the virus if reopening happens too soon, unless testing expands rapidly once restrictions are relaxed, the Globe and Mail reported.

Countries around the world have reported spikes in COVID-19 shortly after easing physical distancing measures.

Canada’s top doctor, Dr. Theresa Tam, has encouraged cautious optimism.

“It is important that we all continue to be vigilant with our duty to protect one another, especially to protect the vulnerable, as we navigate the next few weeks,” Tam tweeted.

Cargill slaughterhouse reopening after half of workers test positive

Cargill, a meat-packing plant in southern Alberta that provides about 40 percent of beef processing in Canada, is sending its staff back to work on Monday, even though the union representing the workers is against the reopening.

Nearly half of Cargill’s workers have tested positive for the coronavirus.As of Sunday, 935 employees at the plant had tested positive for COVID-19, and 1,538 cases have been linked to the outbreak.

One worker has died and seven have been hospitalized, with five in intensive care, according to CBC News.

The union representing Cargill’s workers initiated legal action on Friday to prevent the reopening, arguing that it’s not confident that adequate measures are in place to protect workers.

The outbreak prompted the plant to close temporarily for 14 days.

The parties are now in talks, according to Global News.

Cases still rising in Canada

As of Monday morning, Canada had 59,474 presumed or confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3,682 deaths. In Quebec, an apparent computer glitch resulted in more than 1,000 cases not being reported, but cases are now up to date.

Here’s a breakdown of confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases across the country:

British Columbia: 2,171

Alberta: 5,766

Saskatchewan: 433

Manitoba: 281

Ontario: 17,553

Quebec: 31,865

Newfoundland and Labrador: 259

New Brunswick: 118

Nova Scotia: 971

Prince Edward Island: 27

Yukon: 11

Northwest Territories: 5

Nunavut: 1

As of Sunday, the global total of confirmed COVID-19 surged past 3.3 million, with more than 238,000 deaths.

Follow Anya Zoledziowski on Twitter.