Mexico halts sending more temporary foreign workers to Canada after two die of COVID-19 in Windsor; Beijing responds to largest outbreak in two months

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Tuesday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

5:54 a.m.: Outside a back door to a New York hospital where the coronavirus hit like a hurricane, a half-dozen staffers gathered recently to look back, and look inward.

“I am still scared,” Dr. Gwen Hooley told her colleagues at Elmhurst Hospital, which was swamped with patients in late March as the virus rampaged through New York.

Physician’s assistant Diane Akhbari recalled her husband leaving food on the cellar stairs while she isolated herself for months for fear of infecting her family: “I felt like an animal,” she said, her voice cracking.

Co-workers talked about how terrifying it felt early on, not knowing whether they’d have enough protective gear. How one endured his own case of COVID-19 and others saw young and healthy people like themselves get critically sick. How colleagues discussed drawing up wills.

And how haunting it is to think it may all happen again.

5 a.m.: Shutting down a broad range of Alberta’s environmental monitoring over pandemic fears wasn’t necessary, says the head of a group responsible for such work.

Most monitoring could have been done safely, says Jay White, president of the licence-granting Alberta Society of Professional Biologists.

“We’re trained to deal with dangerous, toxic biological hazards in our day-to-day work,” White said Monday. “The virus is no different.”

Alberta’s own chief scientist says he wasn’t consulted before the government temporarily shut down much land, air and water-monitoring requirements in the oil and gas industry in what it said was an attempt to keep workers and communities safe from COVID-19.

It should have been up to the people who actually do the work to decide how safe it is, White said.

3:32 a.m.: A new water park in the Smoky Mountains foothills of Tennessee is preparing to open to visitors amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The 50-acre Soaky Mountain Waterpark in Sevierville said it’s slated to open June 27, with preview days on June 25 and 26 for guests of Wilderness at the Smokies and season pass holders.

Masks will be optional in the park and not allowed in or on water attractions. Social distancing requirements and other precautions will be in place.

1:44 a.m.: China increased testing and lockdown measures in parts of the capital Tuesday to control what appeared to be its largest coronavirus outbreak in more than two months.

The 40 new cases reported Tuesday included 27 in Beijing, bringing the city’s total to 106 since Friday.

Many of the recent cases have been linked to Beijing’s Xinfadi wholesale market and authorities have been testing market workers, anyone who visited the market in the past two weeks and anyone who came into contact with either group.

Fresh meat and seafood in the city and elsewhere in China was also being inspected on the unlikely chance that was how the virus spread.

Monday 10:40 p.m.: Mexico won’t send any more temporary foreign workers to Canada until it has more clarity on why two died due to COVID-19, the country’s ambassador to Canada said Monday.

That means as many as 5,000 temporary foreign workers expected to arrive in Canada in the coming months are being held back, for now.

“It’s so we can reassess with the federal authorities, provinces and farmers why this happened and if there is anything to correct,” Juan Jose Gomez Camacho said in an interview.

The two men — one died this month and the other in late May — were employed by different farms in the Windsor, Ont., area, a farming heartland in southwestern Ontario that has seen ongoing outbreaks.

The outbreaks were cited Monday as the reason Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the region can’t follow in the footsteps of others and loosen restrictions designed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Monday 9:30 p.m: British Columbia’s COVID-19 restrictions are under further review this week, but the limit on gatherings to a maximum of 50 people will not change, says provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

Henry said Monday she is pleased with the results of B.C.’s reopening for schools and some businesses, but there is no official date for moving into the next phase, other than it is being considered this week.

“Maybe,” she said at a news conference when asked about moving to the third phase this week.

“We’re continuing to watch, looking at the numbers. But, you know, it’s not yes, we’re in phase three. It’s a gradual increase of the things that we’re doing.”

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Monday 8:55 p.m.: The Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority, the provincial agency that governs Ontario’s retirement homes, has issued an order to revoke the licence of Rosslyn Retirement Residence, the site of Hamilton’s worst COVID-19 outbreak.

The Rosslyn is owned and operated by members of the Martino families, which also operate seven other retirement homes and residential care facilities in Hamilton, along with the Greycliff Manor retirement home in Niagara Falls. Brothers Aldo Martino and the late John Martino previously owned the Royal Crest Lifecare chain of care homes until it collapsed into bankruptcy in 2003, leaving Ontario taxpayers on the hook for $ 18 million.

Fourteen residents of Rosslyn have died from the outbreak and more than 60 residents had to be hospitalized when the home was evacuated on May 15.

A Hamilton Spectator investigation last week revealed horrifying conditions and alleged mismanagement at the home. Former staff members and families of former residents of the Rosslyn made shocking allegations of chronic problems with rodent and bedbug infestations, understaffing, poor living conditions, and a lack of proper care for residents with dementia.

Monday 7:24 p.m.: After seeing fewer than 200 new COVID-19 cases for the first time in more than two months on Sunday, Ontario’s regional health units reported a slight bump in cases Monday, according to the Star’s latest count.

As of 5 p.m. Monday, the health units had reported a total of 34,231 confirmed and probable cases, including 2,582 deaths, up a total of 211 new cases in 24 hours — up 32 cases from the previous day. Before Sunday, the last day with fewer than 200 new reported cases was March 26, back in the early days of rapid case growth before the COVID-19 epidemic first peaked in the province.

As has been the case in recent weeks, the overwhelming majority of new COVID-19 infections in Ontario continue to occur in the GTA; just 62 of the 211 cases reported Monday came outside in the region’s five health units. But the rate of new cases is also falling sharply in the Toronto area.

On Monday, Toronto Public Health reported fewer than 100 new cases for the fourth straight day. Before that streak, all but one of the previous 66 consecutive days had seen more than 100 reported infections.

Meanwhile, the 11 new fatal cases reported since Sunday evening is also in line with a downward trend that has seen the rate of deaths fall from a peak of 90 deaths in a single day, seen in early May.

Earlier Monday, the province reported that 419 patients are now hospitalized with COVID-19, including 104 in intensive care, of whom 69 are on a ventilator. Those numbers have also have fallen sharply since early May.

The province says its data is accurate to 4 p.m. the previous day.

Monday 4:21 p.m. The Ontario government is proposing all health units begin collecting race-based data on COVID-19.

The province announced the change today after saying earlier this month it was considering the move.

The health minister says the government has made the proposal after requests from community leaders and public health experts.

Monday 1:04 p.m. All regions of Ontario except for Toronto, Peel and Windsor-Essex will be in Stage 2 of the province’s phased reopening plan as of Friday.

Most areas of the province were allowed to enter the second stage last Friday, except for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, some regions that border the United States and those with COVID-19 outbreaks among migrant workers.

Premier Doug Ford announced today that the regions that can join them this Friday are: Durham, Haldimand-Norfolk, Halton, Hamilton, Lambton, Niagara and York.

Read More from the Star’s Queen’s Park Bureau Chief, Robert Benzie: Province easing COVID-19 restrictions in Durham, York and Hamilton, but Toronto and Peel will have to wait

Read More from the Star’s Josh Rubin: Toronto businesses frustrated as neighbours open sooner: ‘If this goes on another month, I’ll probably have to close’

Read more of Monday’s coverage.

TORONTO STAR