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Long-term care home report and JK Rowling's new story; In The News for May 27

Last Updated May 27, 2020 at 4:28 am EDT

A home-care worker is shown outside Orchard Villa long-term care home in Pickering, Ont., on Tuesday, May 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

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 27 …

COVID-19 in Canada …

Members of Parliament will make history today as a few dozen of them gather in the House of Commons, where they’ll be joined by the other 300-odd MPs participating via videoconference.

The new hybrid of in-person and virtual proceedings goes into effect today after the NDP joined forces Tuesday evening with the Liberals to waive normal sittings of the House of Commons for another four months while the country continues to grapple with the COVID-19 crisis.

Instead, they voted in favour of a government motion to continue with an expanded version of the special COVID-19 committee that has acted as a stand-in for the chamber over the past month.

The committee has been meeting twice a week virtually and once a week with a small group of MPs physically present in the Commons.

Starting today, all special committee meetings will be a mix of virtual and in-person,  with most MPs participating via big screens set up on either side of the Speaker’s chair.

And there’ll be four meetings each week, Monday to Thursday, until mid-June.

Also this …

Simon Nisbet is convinced that if he hadn’t moved his mother out of her long-term care home, she would never have left alive.

He said daily visits to her window at Orchard Villa in Pickering, Ont., led to a mounting list of concerns as a deadly COVID-19 outbreak swept through the home, killing dozens of residents.

He alleged his 89-year-old mother’s call bell lay disconnected on the floor of her room, not far from where he consistently saw trays of untouched food. Staff, he said, were unable to tell him what she’d had to eat or drink and rarely provided updates on the evolving outbreak.

After she was officially diagnosed with the novel coronavirus herself, Nisbet said he could tell from the look in her eyes that she was deteriorating quickly and needed to be transferred to a local hospital for better care.

By the time she got there, Nisbet said she had sustained serious kidney damage due to dehydration. While she appears to have recovered from COVID-19, she remains in hospital in fragile health.

When a bombshell report from the Canadian Armed Forces outlining a litany of problems at five long-term care homes including Orchard Villa was released on Tuesday, Nisbet said he was not surprised.

COVID-19 in the U.S. …

In the rubble of buildings and lives, modern U.S. presidents have met national trauma with words such as these: “I can hear you.” “You have lost too much, but you have not lost everything.” “We have wept with you; we’ve pulled our children tight.”

As diverse as they were in eloquence and empathy, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama each had his own way of piercing the noise of catastrophe and reaching people.

But now, the known U.S. death toll from the coronavirus pandemic is fast approaching 100,000 on the watch of a president whose communication skills, potent in a political brawl, are not made for this moment.

Impeachment placed one indelible mark on Donald Trump’s time in the White House. Now there is another, a still-growing American casualty list that has exceeded deaths from the Vietnam and Korean wars combined. U.S. fatalities from the most lethal hurricanes and earthquakes pale by comparison. This is the deadliest pandemic in a century.

Actual deaths from COVID-19 are almost certainly higher than the numbers show, an undercount to be corrected in time.

At every turn Trump has asserted the numbers would be worse without his leadership. Yet the toll keeps climbing. It is well beyond what he told people to expect even as his public-health authorities started bracing the country in early April for at least 100,000 deaths.

COVID-19 around the world …

Dominic Cummings helped Boris Johnson win power by pitting the people against the elite. Johnson’s Conservative administration has branded itself “the People’s Government.”

The prime minister’s populist appeal has been hammered by news that, as the coronavirus outbreak raged, chief adviser Cummings drove 250 miles (400 kilometres) to his parents’ house while he was falling ill with suspected COVID-19 — allegedly flouting lockdown rules that the government had imposed on the rest of the country.

Cummings says he travelled to the family farm in northeast England so that his nieces could care for his 4-year-old son if he and his wife both became sick. But that explanation cut little ice with many Britons, who say they have endured isolation, anxiety and sometimes loss in order to follow government advice to “Stay Home … Save Lives.”

On Tuesday, junior Scotland minister Douglas Ross quit Johnson’s Conservative government, saying “the vast majority of people” didn’t agree with Cummings’ action.

“I have constituents who didn’t get to say goodbye to loved ones; families who could not mourn together; people who didn’t visit sick relatives because they followed the guidance of the government,” Ross wrote in a resignation letter. “I cannot in good faith tell them they were all wrong and one senior adviser to the government was right.”

Johnson, however, appears determined to hang onto an aide who has been dubbed “Boris’ brain,” even if it fractures his government and erodes Britain’s response to the pandemic.

COVID-19 in entertainment …

JK Rowling is publishing a new story called “The Ickabog,” which will be free to read online to help entertain children and families stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

The “Harry Potter” author said Tuesday she wrote the fairy tale for her children as a bedtime story over a decade ago. Set in an imaginary land, it is a stand-alone story “about truth and the abuse of power” for children from 7 to 9 years old and is unrelated to Rowling’s other books.

Rowling said the draft of the story had stayed in her attic while she focused on writing books for adults. She said her children, now teenagers, were “touchingly enthusiastic” when she recently suggested retrieving the story and publishing it for free.

“For the last few weeks I’ve been immersed in a fictional world I thought I’d never enter again. As I worked to finish the book, I started reading chapters nightly to the family again,” she said.

“’The Ickabog’s first two readers told me what they remember from when they were tiny, and demanded the reinstatement of bits they’d particularly liked (I obeyed).”

The first two chapters were posted online Tuesday, with daily instalments to follow until July 10.

The book will be published in print later this year, and Rowling said she will pledge royalties from its sales to projects helping those particularly affected by the pandemic.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2020

The Canadian Press

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