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Monthly Archives: October 2020

COVID-19 in B.C.: Exposure incidents at nine schools, four stores, one coffee shop, and more

B.C. has passed another milestone, as the cumulative number of COVID-19 infections exceeded the 9,000 case mark.

Although today’s new case count higher than yesterday’s, the number of active and monitored cases continue to decline and hospitalizations remain the same.

There’s one new healthcare outbreak; nine schools with exposure incidents; and a coffee shop, four stores, and four flights with confirmed cases.

In addition, the B.C. government announced today that, once again, the provincial state of emergency has been extended, this time until October 13.

Daily update: September 29

The new case count is back up over 100 again.

In today’s joint statement from B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Deputy Health Minister Stephen Brown, they confirmed 105 new cases (including three epi-linked cases) in B.C.

However, active cases continue to drop—down 34 cases from 1,302 cases yesterday to 1,268 active cases today.

The number of hospitalized cases—69 individuals—remains the same as yesterday, and 20 of these patients (two less than yesterday) are in intensive care units.

Public health is monitoring 3,337 people, which is 35 less people than yesterday.

No new community outbreaks have been declared but there is a new healthcare outbreak at Haro Park Centre (1233 Haro Street) in Vancouver’s West End. This longterm care facility was among the first few healthcare facilities that had an outbreak early in the pandemic.

Unfortunately, one individual has died in Fraser Health, raising the total number of fatalities to 234 people who have died during the pandemic from COVID-19.

A cumulative total of 9,013 cases have been confirmed in B.C. during the pandemic, which include:

  • 4,594 cases in Fraser Health;
  • 3,286 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
  • 206 in Island Health;
  • 531 in Interior Health;
  • 309 in Northern Health;
  • 87 people who live outside Canada.

A total of 7,485 people in B.C. have recovered from COVID-19.

School exposures

Several more schools have been added to exposure event lists by three health authorities. Interior Health didn’t add any new schools to its list and Island Health still hasn’t had any exposure incidents at its schools.

Vancouver Coastal Health has added four more schools with exposure incidents:

  • Vancouver Technical Secondary (2600 East Broadway) in Vancouver on September 21;
  • Elsie Roy Elementary (150 Drake Street) in Vancouver, from September 22 to 24;
  • B.C. Muslim School (12300 Blundell Road) in Richmond, from September 11 to 18;
  • Rockridge Secondary (5350 Headland Drive) in West Vancouver, from September 23 to 24;
  • Howe Sound Secondary (38430 Buckley Avenue) in Squamish, from September 21 to 25.

Fraser Health has added two schools in New Westminster to its list:

 Lord Tweedsmuir Elementary (1714 8th Avenue) from September 24 to 25;

 Queensborough Middle School (833 Salter Street) from September 21 to 22.

Northern Health has also added two schools:

  • Quesnel Junior Secondary, which previously had an exposure incident from September 10 to 11, in Quesnel has had a second exposure event from September 15 to 18;
  • David Hoy Elementary (Birch Street West at 4th Avenue West) in Fort St. James had an exposure incident from September 17 to 18.

Food and flights

Vancouver Coastal Health has listed Abruzzo Cappuccino Bar (1321 Commercial Drive) in Vancouver as having a potential COVID-19 exposure incident between 1 and 3 p.m. from September 23 to 26.

Loblaw announced that employees have tested positive at the following locations:

  • Real Canadian Superstore (333 Seymour Boulevard) in North Vancouver, with September 24 listed as the last date worked by the employee;
  • Shoppers Drug Mart at the Shops at Mission Hills (32530 Lougheed Highway) in Mission, with September 16 as the last date the employee worked;
  • Dave’s No Frills (1401 Alaska Avenue) in Dawson Creek, with September 18 listed as the last date worked by the employee;
  • Hector’s Your Independent Grocer (1900 Garibaldi Way) in Squamish, with September 23 as the last date worked by the employee;

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) has confirmed the following flights with COVID-19:

• September 18: Air Canada 122, from Vancouver to Toronto;

September 19: Air Canada 303, from Montreal to Vancouver;

• September 22: Air Canada 304, from Vancouver to Montreal;

• September 24: Air Canada 123, from Toronto to Vancouver;

For affected row information, visit the BCCDC website.

Anyone at these locations or on these flights should watch for symptoms for 14 days following the date of visit or flight date.

If you develop symptoms, immediately self-isolate and call 811 to find out about testing.You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.

Canada’s Forgotten Poor? Putting Singles Living in Deep Poverty on the Policy Radar DEAN HERD, YUNA KIM AND CHRISTINE CARRASCO, WITH COMMENTARIES BY SHERRI TORJMAN, ALAIN NOËL AND RON KNEEBONE | SEPTEMBER 15, 2020

Despite federal, provincial, and territorial governments devoting a lot of effort on plans to reduce poverty in recent years, too many Canadians continue to struggle to meet their basic daily needs on incomes that fall far below the poverty line. And, among all household groups, single persons without dependants are most likely to find themselves in these dire circumstances. Working-age singles constitute the largest proportion of beneficiaries on social assistance, and they are three times as likely to live in poverty as the average Canadian. The average income of singles living in deep poverty is less than $10,000 a year, which includes social assistance benefits. Yet, they have been overlooked in social policy reforms for several decades and in many ways remain the “forgotten poor.”

This report presents the findings of extensive research about employable singles on social assistance undertaken by Toronto Employment and Social Services, in partnership with the Ontario Centre for Workforce Innovation. Drawing on data from 69,000 singles who were receiving social assistance in Toronto in 2016, and 51 interviews with randomly selected participants, the report highlights these individuals’ characteristics, their complex needs, and the barriers they face in moving off social assistance and into employment. Complementing the quantitative analysis, the interviews provide important insights into the daily realities of participants’ lives and their journeys on and off assistance.

The report indicates that, contrary to common belief, singles on social assistance are not a homogenous group of young men. For instance, 38 percent of them were women and 38 percent were 45 years of age, or older. Men under the age of 30 accounted for less than 20 percent of the cases. Education levels varied greatly, as did the immigration background of those on assistance. Notably, about a third had not completed high school, but as many as 30 percent had post-secondary credentials of some kind. Naturalized Canadian citizens and permanent residents represented 43 percent of the singles caseload, the same proportion as those born in the country.

One of the key issues highlighted by the report is the fact that public income supports for single individuals living in poverty — in the form of social assistance, tax credits and supplementary benefits — are considerably less generous than those for families. Unlike the many lone parents who have been helped to move out of poverty through targeted programs and child benefits, singles have minimal access to income supports beyond modest social assistance payments. Interview participants described the difficult trade-offs they made between meeting essential needs and other living expenses. They pointed to malnourishment and deteriorating physical and mental health, not to mention the stigma and social isolation, that resulted from spells on social assistance.

Singles on social assistance also reported multiple barriers to employment. The most common reasons cited were poor health, a lack of education/skills, limited transportation options, and insufficient Canadian work experience. All of this underscores the importance of better understanding their diverse circumstances and challenges to be able to provide public services tailored to their needs. The report’s findings provide valuable information not only to policy-makers in Toronto, but also across Canada, as the increasing number of singles on social assistance and the limited financial support available to them are nation-wide concerns.

To follow up on this research, the Institute for Research on Public Policy asked three experts to comment on the findings and the broader implications for social policy reform, in particular how policy-makers at all levels of government could better help reduce deep poverty in Canada.

Sherri Torjman, social policy consultant and policy associate with Maytree, has long advocated for a fundamental “reformulation” of the country’s patchwork social safety net for working-age adults. She points out that, in the last few decades, tremendous progress has been made lifting families out of poverty, mainly thanks to decades of improvements to the Canada Child Benefit. However, in her view, progress stalled when it came to tackling the complex needs of working-age adults, especially those of singles on social assistance who are often stuck behind the “welfare wall.” She puts forth three major policy-reform options: (1) a redesign of Employment Insurance; (2) an expansion of the Canada Workers Benefit to provide an income guarantee to low-income workers and boost their take-home earnings; and (3) a “big bang” rebuild of all income-support programs. She also stresses the need to provide more diverse individualized support services for the most vulnerable.

Alain Noël, professor of political science at the Université de Montréal, argues that the focus of social policy in the last 20 years in member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has been to reform the welfare state to deal with the new social risks associated with increasingly polarized labour markets and less stable dual-earner family arrangements. As a result, policy-makers’ attention in redesigning income support programs has leaned towards children, work-family conciliation, and labour market integration. He argues that those living alone in poverty were in the blind spot of this “social investment” drive, and that this contributed to maintaining very low welfare incomes for single adults. For instance, Canadian provinces remain in the bottom tier of OECD governments in terms of the adequacy of social assistance income for employable singles relative to median income. While Professor Noël agrees the post-COVID-19 environment may provide policy-makers an opportunity to address long-standing income security gaps, he cautions that there are considerable political risks in betting on new, large-scale, basic income programs as advocated by some. Instead, he encourages multi-pronged solutions focused on lifting people out of deep poverty by significantly increasing social assistance incomes, and providing more supportive employment and social services to those facing multiple challenges.

In a similar vein, Ron Kneebone, professor of economics at the University of Calgary, opines that for decades, Canadian public policies to fight poverty have been driven by politically popular campaigns centered on seniors and families with children. He argues that with single people now making up the largest group of reported households in the census, and singles being disproportionately represented among the ranks of the poor in the country, it’s time for policy-makers to shift the focus of their efforts from simply reducing the poverty rate overall to specifically addressing the problem of deep poverty among singles and its consequences. Professor Kneebone calls not only for a significant increase in social assistance benefits for them, but also for annual cost-of-living adjustments to be made on the basis of changes in rental costs — housing being the most significant affordability challenge for those living in deep poverty.