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Canadians can now download new COVID-19 exposure-alert smartphone app

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OTTAWA — Canadians can now begin downloading a voluntary smartphone app meant to warn users they’ve been near someone who tests positive for COVID-19.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he downloaded the “COVID Alert” app Friday morning and said the more people who sign up to use it, the better it will be able to trace — and help to slow — the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Health experts say that if enough people sign up, this app can help prevent future outbreaks of COVID-19 in Canada,” Trudeau said Friday in Ottawa during a visit to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The app is designed to track the location of phones relative to each other, without collecting personal data anywhere centrally, using digital identifications unique to each device.

Then users can be notified if their phones have recently been near the phone of a person who later volunteers that they have tested positive for COVID-19.

The app will then encourage users to call their provincial health services for advice on what to do next.

“I want to be clear: this app isn’t mandatory. It’s completely voluntary to download and to use,” Trudeau said. “And it doesn’t collect your name, address, geolocation, or other personal information.”

Trudeau said the app is currently linked to the Ontario health system, but anyone in Canada can begin using it today and more provinces are joining it soon.

He said the Atlantic provinces will be the next to link their health systems to the app and the federal government is in talks with other provinces too.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 31, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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Federal parties see drop in donations during height of pandemic

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OTTAWA — Newly released figures show the two biggest federal political parties are seeing a drop in donations this year as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the lives and pocket books of Canadians.

Second quarter financial returns released by Elections Canada this week show the Liberals and Conservatives took in less money between April and June — when the economy was virtually shut down and Canadians were hunkered in their homes to avoid the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus — than during the same period two years ago.

But despite the significant financial impacts the pandemic has had on many Canadians, political donations have not entirely dried up.

The Conservatives pulled in $4 million in the second quarter of this year, down from $6 million raised in the same time period in 2018, the last non-election year, while The Liberals took in $2.6 million, down from $3.1 million in 2018.

Donations are always highest during election years so comparisons with 2019 would not be relevant.

The NDP, Bloc and Green parties, meanwhile, saw slight increases in their donations compared to 2018. The New Democrats received $1.3 million compared to just $964,000 two years ago, the Green party took in $721,000 in second quarter, up from $572,000, and the Bloc received $134,000, up from a meagre $44,000 two years ago.

The numbers offer the first significant look into how the pandemic has affected the fundraising efforts of federal political parties.

Parties had to halt their in-person fundraising events in March after the country went into lockdown. Emails and other messages soliciting money from donors were also temporarily suspended or altered to encourage people to pitch in only if they can.

“We know that not everyone is in a position to give right now, and that’s OK. Your involvement means the world to our whole team and we’re so grateful to have you standing with us no matter what,” one Liberal party email sent in May told supporters.

“If you’re able, though, please show your support and chip in $5 today to support our progress for Canadians (or whatever amount feels right for you at the moment).”

These messages have shifted in recent weeks to more traditional pushes for support as pandemic restrictions have lifted and businesses have started reopening.

The Conservatives have also begun asking party faithful to chip in to an “early election fund,” with the message that the Liberals “could call an election at any time.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 1, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version erroneously reported that the NDP saw a drop in donations.

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Veteran righty Matt Shoemaker to start in next Toronto Blue Jays game

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WASHINGTON — Matt Shoemaker will be the starting pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays in their next game, whenever that might be.

Shoemaker has gone the longest since his last start among Toronto’s rotation. He allowed one run over six innings in the Blue Jays’ 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on July 25.

The veteran right-hander’s next start comes as Major League Baseball’s season continues to be clouded by doubt.

Another game was postponed on Saturday by the COVID-19 pandemic, for a total of 17 games MLB has had to reschedule including Toronto’s four-game series with the Philadelphia Phillies this weekend.

Philadelphia reported no new positive tests on Saturday after the Phillies were sidelined for at least a week following a series against the Miami Marlins.

More than 20 members of the Marlins’ travelling party have tested positive for COVID-19.

Toronto — using Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., as for their first “homestand” of 2020 — will instead spend the weekend doing intense workouts.

“We’re going to try to do the same thing we did before the season started,” said Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo on Saturday. “Trying to get as close as game speed as we can with our players. Live batting practice, guys need to throw.”

The Blue Jays are scheduled to play in Atlanta against the Braves on Tuesday which, for now, would be when Shoemaker gets the start.

Montoyo said his clubhouse is not rattled by the constantly shifting season, standing during his video news conference to point out a slogan on his shirt that read “We don’t quit.”

“My focus is on today, trying to get them ready and be ready for Tuesday,” said Montoyo.

He did, however, acknowledge that Toronto’s coaching staff is regularly reminding the players to be conscientious about safety protocols designed to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“We do every day, we really do,” said Montoyo. “Just because we do it doesn’t mean somebody won’t test positive, though. When you move from hotel to hotel stuff can happen.

“But yeah, we (talk about it) every day. We’re trying to follow all the protocols.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 1, 2020.

— By John Chidley-Hill in Toronto.

___

Follow @jchidleyhill on Twitter

The Canadian Press

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august, 2020

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