Today’s coronavirus news: Pandemic, low wages and work conditions continue to deter the return of restaurant employees in Canada

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

7:48 a.m. Plans to turn “Come From Away” into a big-screen movie musical have been indefinitely placed on hold, say the Canadian writers behind the Broadway hit.

David Hein and Irene Sankoff were well into the script stages of their film adaptation when they say COVID-19 delivered an unexpected blow to the production plans.

“Come From Away” is inspired by the real-life story of residents in Gander, N.L., who hosted thousands of unexpected guests whose flights were forced to land in the small town after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Shooting on the East Coast was always a stipulation of a movie adaptation for the creators, but Sankoff says pandemic restrictions and closed borders made moving forward a risky financial prospect.

But the couple says they remain hopeful their script will eventually be turned into a movie.

In the meantime, they’ve struck a deal with Apple TV Plus to bring a filmed version of the live Broadway show to the streaming service on Sept. 10.

6:01 a.m.: As restaurateurs across the country scramble to fill thousands of jobs, a common refrain has emerged: If the government wasn’t paying workers to stay home, the labour shortage plaguing the restaurant industry wouldn’t exist.

But workers are telling a different story, pointing to low wages and gruelling work conditions as the biggest hiring obstacles.

“It’s hot. It’s stressful. The hours are long and the pay is awful,” says Chantelle Comeau, a 25-year veteran of the restaurant industry.

“People are literally working to the point of burnout for pennies above minimum wage.”

The pandemic has had a catastrophic impact on restaurants in Canada.

The industry has endured some of the longest shutdowns in the world, with more than 10,000 eateries closing permanently.

It’s also been devastating for workers. Hundreds of thousands of food service employees lost their jobs — and some are not returning.

As some restaurateurs struggle to find enough workers to fill shifts, some suggest government income supports are deterring some from working.

“We lost a lot of the untrained, lower wage workers,” says Danny Ellis, the owner and operator of four restaurants in Cape Breton, a region with an unemployment rate of 12.6 per cent, compared to 8.7 per cent for Nova Scotia as a whole.

“I can’t find dishwashers,” he says. “Especially for guys in that position, why would they come back when they’re paid to sit at home?”

The restaurateur says he’s increased wages, but still can’t find enough workers. He’s now planning to close one of his restaurants for a day a week just to give current staff a break.

Wednesday 5:58 a.m.: Tens of thousands of students are converging in concentrated locations from all over the state, nation and even the world. They are moving into tight dorm rooms and setting up apartments with new roommates. They’re sitting in classrooms, eating cafeteria-style, socializing and studying in the library.

Many California college campuses appear to be havens of protection from the coronavirus, with strict safety practices that include mandatory vaccinations for students and staff, weekly testing and required masking for all indoor and some outdoor activities. Positive cases will prompt quarantines and contract tracing.

But amid the surge of the highly contagious Delta variant, it’s unclear whether “almost back to normal” will last this fall, as students redefine the centrepiece of college life: togetherness.

“It’s a pain to get tested every week and wear a mask, but we need to do these things to mitigate the spread,” said Dr. Sarah Van Orman, chief health officer for USC Student Health. “The tension we’re feeling is the tension everyone is feeling of how much do we get back to normal and how much do we pull back?”

Three of Los Angeles County’s largest universities began in-person classes Monday: USC, Cal State Los Angeles and Cal State Long Beach. UCLA starts Sept. 23. Officials hope the strict safety protocols will be a strong enough shield against the campus outbreaks that threw universities into crisis mode a year ago — even with sparsely populated dorms and online classes.

These early weeks will be a test case for the new rules — some of the strictest in the country. USC was one of the first California universities to require vaccinations even before full federal approval, announcing the decision in June; the University of California and California State University followed in July.

Read Tuesday’s coronavirus news.

TORONTO STAR