Boosting COVID-19 testing and signs in the sewage; In The News for May 22

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 May 22 ...

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COVID-19 in Canada ...

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be under pressure today to detail how the federal government will help provinces massively scale up testing for COVID-19 as the country slowly begins to come back to life.

Trudeau reiterated Thursday evening his offer of federal help on testing and contact tracing during his weekly conference call with premiers — repeating an offer he first made a week ago and which the Prime Minister's Office says was well received.

Yet despite that offer, the provinces and territories combined are testing fewer than 30,000 Canadians every day — less than half the available testing capacity that chief public health officer Theresa Tam has said should be the target.

The lack of testing is particularly problematic in the two largest provinces, which account for some 80 per cent of the COVID-19 cases across the country.

Ontario has fallen far short of its goal of 16,000 tests per day, with the province completing 10,506 tests on Tuesday.

In Quebec, home to more than half Canada's COVID-19 deaths, 9,582 tests were completed on Monday, according to the latest figures.---

Also this ...

OTTAWA — Researchers in Canada say the best early warning system for a second wave of COVID-19 could be right beneath our feet — in the sewers.

Several other countries have taken to testing wastewater for signs of the novel coronavirus as an indication of flare-ups in their communities.

Now researchers are beginning to look at the option in Canada.

Given that some people can pass the virus on without even knowing they have it, health officials say testing large portions of the population will be key for detecting and quashing any new community spread of COVID-19.

Canada has struggled to keep up with the volume of tests needed to do that.

Mike McKay with the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research says scientists across the country are now testing wastewater to see if it could be a viable way to alert public health officials to new outbreaks.

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COVID-19 in the U.S. ...

WASHINGTON,D.C. — As the coronavirus pandemic stretches on, Americans’ views of the federal and state government response to the crisis are starting to sour — yet President Donald Trump’s personal approval rating has remained steady.

A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that 41 per cent of Americans approve of the president’s job performance, while 58 per cent disapprove.

That’s consistent with opinions of Trump before the pandemic, as well as throughout his more than three years in office.

The survey highlights one of the remarkable features of Trump’s tenure as president: Despite a steady drumbeat of controversies, an impeachment trial and now a historic public health crisis, few Americans have changed their views of him.

He’s failed to increase his support in any measurable way, yet he also has retained the approval of his core backers, including the overwhelming majority of Republicans.

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COVID-19 around the world ...

MOSCOW — In Russia, there are no daily public displays of gratitude for its doctors as there are in the West during the coronavirus crisis.

Instead, Russian medical workers face mistrust, low pay and even hostility.

The COVID-19 outbreak has put enormous pressure on them, and they say they are battling both the virus and a system that fails to support them.

Doctors who try to speak out about a lack of protective equipment and dire working conditions face intimidation, are accused of lying, and some are being fired or even face prosecution.

Officials and news reports also say more than 9,400 medical workers have gotten the virus in the past month, and more than 70 have died.

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COVID-19 in entertainment ...

The Stratford Festival says despite efforts to rescue its finances from the impact of COVID-19 the organization still has a $20-million hole in its budget.

Carol Stephenson, chairwoman of the board at the festival, has asked the House of Commons standing committee on finance for $8 million to help get the arts organization back on its feet.

She says the rest of the shortfall can be raised through donations from the private sector.

Stratford was to roll out 15 productions in four theatres, including Colm Feore's "Richard III'' as the inaugural show at the new $70-million Tom Patterson Theatre, before the closure of its theatres in March.

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COVID-19 in sports ...

Jason Dorrington was looking forward to playing for six softball teams this summer, until recreational sports across the country ground to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Individual, non-contact sports like golf and tennis have been given the green light to play in Quebec and Ontario this week. However, team sports such as soccer, baseball, basketball and flag football, must wait until they have been deemed safe to play by their respective governments.

"It sucks," Dorrington said. "I look forward to it every year to get together with the boys all the time. I play five, six times a week. Gives me something to do."

For organizations like AK-Rec, a Montreal basketball recreational league with nearly 800 participants through nine recreational divisions in gyms across the city, they've already cancelled their summer leagues and it is possible they may not see any action until early January 2021.

"It's gone from a healthy revenue stream to zero," says AK-Rec owner and founder Ariel Kincler.

The issue of contact, or lack thereof, may pose a challenge for some recreation leagues once they return.

John Stellato, president and director of the Quebec Calcetto Soccer League, feels it might not be possible to have participants follow every physical distancing measure as they play. However, he said he will supply masks and encourage players to wear their own gloves.

It's the behaviour of players in dugouts that worries Montreal Softball League president Gil Di Gregorio.

Teammates high-fiving each other, sharing water bottles and spitting out sunflower seeds might be a thing of the past until a vaccine is deployed.

Kincler thinks having players swabbed before taking to the court might be a solution once his league resumes. But the damage may already be done by then.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 22, 2020

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