Day: April 2, 2020

Two more COVID-19-related deaths at Bobcaygeon, Ont. nursing home, bringing total number to 17

Officials say COVID-19 has claimed the lives of two more residents of a long-term care home in Bobcaygeon, Ont. bringing the total number of deaths linked to the facility to 17.

Michelle Snarr, the medical director at Pinecrest Nursing Home, told CTV News Thursday that two more residents of the long-term care home died overnight.

So far, 16 residents of the nursing home and a spouse of one of the residents have died after becoming infected with the virus.

Elderly residents of long-term care homes in the province have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Several deaths have been reported in facilities across Ontario and on Wednesday, public health officials confirmed that there are at least 30 outbreaks at long-term care homes in the province.

On Wednesday, Toronto Public Health said eight residents of the Seven Oaks long-term care facility in Scarborough have now died from the virus.

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Australia’s highest court to rule on Pell’s appeal next week

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s highest court will deliver its ruling next week on whether to overturn the convictions of Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Catholic convicted of child sex abuse.

The 78-year-old Pell is one year into a six-year sentence for molesting two 13-year-old choirboys in Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral while he was the city’s archbishop in the late 1990s.

The High Court said Thursday its seven judges will give their verdict at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the east coast city of Brisbane. It had heard his appeal March 11-12 before hearings were cancelled due to the coronavirus risk.

The court’s decision could be the last chance for Pope Francis’ former finance minister to clear his name.

A Victoria state County Court jury convicted Pell on all charges in December 2018. The Victoria Court of Appeal in August last year rejected his appeal against the jury verdicts in a 2-1 majority decision.

Pell’s lawyer, Bret Walker, told the High Court last month that if it found the Victorian appeals court had made a mistake in upholding the convictions, Pell should be acquitted.

Prosecutor Kerri Judd told the seven judges that if there were a mistake, they should send the case back to the appeals court to hear it again.

Otherwise, the High Court should hear more evidence and decide itself whether the convictions should stand, Judd said.

Pell was largely convicted on the testimony of one of the choirboys, now in his 30s with a young family.

He first went to police in 2015 after the second victim died of a heroin overdose at the age of 31. Neither can be identified under state law.

Much of the High Court hearing focused on whether the jury should have had a reasonable doubt about Pell’s guilt and whether he could have had time to molest the boys in five or six minutes immediately after a Mass.

Rod McGuirk, The Associated Press

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CERB, EI Or Wage Subsidy? What COVID-19 Financial Assistance Do You Qualify For?

As we settle into a new month of life in the coronavirus pandemic, more and more details are emerging about the financial assistance available to Canadians impacted by the spread of COVID-19.

Last week, the federal government unveiled a huge financial relief package aimed at stimulating the economy and supporting Canadians who have been laid off because of the pandemic. A big feature of that package was the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), a $2,000 monthly payment available to Canadian workers impacted by COVID-19 layoffs. It comes on top of existing programs like employment insurance (EI) and new benefits at the provincial level.

But new details keep rolling out daily on who qualifies and what they should apply for. Since writing guides on how to apply for employment insurance and how to apply for the CERB in the past few weeks, I’ve been inundated with dozens of questions from readers and friends about their specific circumstances. 

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released further details on the CERB and announced that applications would open on April 6. He called the financial support package — including the CERB and new wage subsidy program — the “largest economic program in Canada’s history.”

“Canada hasn’t seen this type of civic mobilization since the Second World War,” Trudeau said. 

Big government mobilizations come with big questions. So here’s what you need to know.

Can I apply for both the CERB and EI?

No, not at the same time. The CERB is designed to fill in some of the gaps in the existing EI structure and shoulder some of the application load. 

But that doesn’t mean the $2,000 a month from the CERB is the only benefit you have access to. Provinces are rolling out supports of their own, including B.C.’s $500 renter relief fund and Ontario’s $200 one-time child support payment. Many also have financial relief specifically for people directed to self-isolate if they are sick or caring for someone who is sick — in Alberta it’s a one-time payment of $1,146. 

Canada hasn’t seen this type of civic mobilization since the Second World War.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

If you are still out of work when your CERB payments run out, you can apply for EI after, if you qualify. 

I still have a full-time job. What benefits do I have access to?

Great! In this case, if your employer is struggling they can apply for the 75 per cent wage subsidy recently announced by the federal government, if they qualify. More details on that here

I was laid off because of COVID-19 and already applied for EI

Then hang tight — according to the government either your application for EI will be processed or you’ll be put into the queue for the CERB. Stay tuned for updates through your EI portal or My CRA account.

On Wednesday, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said there has been an “unprecedented wave” of more than 2.1 million EI applications in the past two weeks. 

I am not working because of COVID-19 and HAVE NOT applied for EI yet

The federal government is suggesting that you wait until applications for the CERB open on April 6, as that is likely to be processed faster than EI. 

You can apply for the CERB online through your My CRA account, or over the phone. Starting April 6, the government is recommending that people stagger their application by birth month in order to avoid overwhelming the system.

  • January, February, March: April 6, Mondays after that
  • April, May, June: April 7, Tuesdays after that
  • July, August, September: April 8, Wednesdays after that
  • October, November, December: April 9, Thursdays after that
  • People with any birth month can apply Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

WATCH: Trudeau boosts wage subsidy. Story continues below. 

Both online and phone applications are available 21 hours a day, seven days a week. Both services are closed from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. EST for maintenance.

You qualify for the CERB if you were laid off because of COVID-19, had at least $5,000 in income in the past year and expect to be without employment for at least 14 days of the next month.

If you qualify, you’ll be approved for a one-time taxable payment of $2,000 that you’ll either receive as a cheque in the mail or through direct deposit. If you continue to be unemployed, you can reapply each month for that $2,000 up to four months total. 

I was laid off because of COVID-19, but still have some income from another job

This is where it gets tricky. According to government releases, the CERB is intended for people who have no employment income for at least 14 days of the first pay period (which is a month) and can prove no income in subsequent pay periods to continue receiving the benefit.

Minister of Finance Bill Morneau responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa on March 27, 2020.

So if you are still employed or self-employed and receiving income, you technically do not qualify. You may qualify for other provincial benefits, such as B.C.’s rent subsidy, but will have to check your respective jurisdiction. 

I was unemployed before COVID-19

If you qualify for EI, you can still apply for it. 

If you don’t qualify for EI and if you were out of work before all of this, neither the CERB nor EI will cover you. 

According to the government’s CERB application: “The Benefit is only available to individuals who stopped work and are not earning employment or self-employment income as a result of reasons related to COVID-19. If you have not stopped working because of COVID-19, you are not eligible for the Benefit.”

The government gives the example of an unemployed student who is potentially seeking out summer employment — if you weren’t laid off because of COVID-19 and didn’t make the minimum amount of money last year to qualify for EI, you don’t qualify. 

I was laid off because of COVID-19 and plan to stay unemployed (retire)

Technically, you can apply for the CERB, since, unlike EI, there is no indication by the government that you need to prove that you are actively looking for work. 

However, you can only receive the CERB for up to four months and you must be able to prove you stopped working and were laid off because of COVID-19, not by your own choice.

How do I prove I was laid off because of COVID-19?

The most important document is a Record of Employment (ROE) from your previous employer, which shows when you were laid off and why. If the business you worked for shut down or downsized in response to the pandemic, the likely reason listed on your ROE is “shortage of work.” 

Could my employer who laid me off rehire me now that there’s a wage subsidy?

Yes! In fact, on Wednesday Finance Minister Bill Morneau suggested employers do exactly that.

“My message to Canada’s employers is this: Get ready to rehire people,” he said.

The wage subsidy will cost the government an estimated $71 billion. Employers will be eligible if they see a reduction of at least 30 per cent in revenues, compared to the same month last year. It will cover 75 per cent for the first $58,700 of an employee’s salary — up to around $847 per week per employee. 

The application for the wage subsidy program should be up and running in three to five weeks. If you’ve been laid off because of COVID-19, touch base with your employer to see if there’s a possibility of rehiring under the new wage subsidy. 

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Woman learns of mother’s death at Ont. nursing home with COVID-19 outbreak from outside window

An Ontario woman said she stood outside a Bobcaygeon, Ont. nursing home window on Monday, hoping to say goodbye to her mother who was exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, only to find out that she had already passed away.

Brittany Perry said that she was notified on Saturday that her 56-year-old mother, Heather Budway, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and was living at Pinecrest Nursing Home, was lethargic and suffering from a mild fever. The doctors said the fever could be a symptom of her mother’s urinary tract infection, Perry said.

Two days later, the nursing home told the family that Budway had taken a turn for the worst. They were told to come down to the facility, where they would be guided to a window outside to say their final goodbyes.

The family never got that chance.

“They opened the curtain and they told us that she had actually passed away. I don’t know how long she was there, passed on her bed,” Perry said.

“To go there with a mindset that you are going to say your goodbyes and for you to just be at this window, in the rain and it’s freezing cold, and for them to say ‘sorry your mom is gone,’ it’s very difficult.”

Fourteen residents have died at Pinecrest Nursing Home after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared at the facility on March 18, and at least 24 staff members are infected with the virus.

The spouse of a resident has also passed away.

Perry said the staff at the nursing home is overwhelmed, stretched thin and “completely heartbroken.”

“It’s really hard to tell the children one of your residents that they passed through a window,” she said. “We had stood outside the window for maybe an hour looking at our mom, and trying to be with her. Through the window you could see the hallway and you could just see the workers running back and forth, back and forth. There was no rest for them.”

Heather Budway

Patricia Lynn St. Thomas said that her 72-year-old cousin, Michael, also passed away at Pinecrest Nursing Home. He had an underlying respiratory problem when he contracted COVID-19, she said.

“Michael was a big guy and was just full of heart. He loved his community and family,” she said of her cousin Michael St. Thomas, who she described as an avid volunteer at the local legion. “An all-around great guy.”

Michael St. Thomas

Patricia Lynn St. Thomas said that she thinks the staff at Pinecrest Nursing Home have done “a wonderful job.”

“It’s just unfortunate that however it got in there, it spread like wildfire, probably without them even knowing,” she said. “It’s a horrible thing but they took action as soon as they knew what was going on.”

The work being done by frontline health-care workers at the nursing home has not been lost on members of the community.

Dozens of cars drove past the facility on Wednesday afternoon honking their horns and ringing bells in support of the staff. The occupants of the cars held signs that read “our thoughts and prayers are with you” and “stay strong.”

“We’re just trying to offer our support for everything they do for us,” said one resident who came out.

“I think that staff there are going to get burnt out and they need to know we’re behind them,” retired nurse Cheryl Waller said.

Community sets up COVID-19 Relief Fund

In the wake of the outbreak at the nursing home, a group of residents have set up a fund to help patients, families and health care workers affected by the virus.

The money raised will provide support to individuals for food, transportation, hiring and overtime costs as well as mental wellness counselling.

Meanwhile, one resident has been collecting tablets and iPads so that residents can stay in contact with their loved ones, as the new policy at the facility states that anyone who visits must go into self-isolation for 14 days afterwards.

“We need to have family. Community is family and family is community,” Aaron Shaw said. “We need to be able to contact each other and this is one way to do it.”

The Community Foundation of Kawartha Lakes and advisors from the Bobcaygeon area will decide on eligibility for the funds collected.

With files from CTV News Toronto’s Mike Walker

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