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

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.

9:23 a.m. With police forces across the province creating COVID-19 vaccination requirements and mandates, Peel Regional Police say they have yet to create any policies.

“We will continue to review our policies on vaccination and COVID-19-related issues in the workplace,” said the force when asked if they had created a mandate.

As of Aug. 24, members are not required to be vaccinated, but are “strongly encouraged to follow public health guidance regarding vaccinations.”

“This is a complicated process that includes consultations and discussion on best practices from various sources and includes other services and sectors,” read the statement.

9:10 a.m. Teacher unions at the Peel District School Board (PDSB) support Ontario’s vaccination policy for educators in the province.

Earlier in August, the Ministry of Health said the province will require that teachers and education workers get their COVID-19 vaccine or provide proof of a medical exemption. Anyone unable to be vaccinated or unwilling will have to be tested regularly for COVID-19 and undergo a vaccine education program.

The PDSD has not released data on how many staff at the board are vaccinated. Communications manager Malon Edwards did not directly respond when asked if the board would release that data in the future for the public.

“Participation in the vaccination program is personal and voluntary. The safety of our students and staff is our highest priority. We all have a role to play in keeping our school communities and the region safe, and that includes following the advice of Peel Public Health,” he said in a written statement.

9 a.m. Disney Cruise Line is the latest to shift policy to now require passengers 12 and older to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for sailings from Florida, even though a law pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis threatens to fine cruise lines for demanding proof of vaccination.

The move comes nearly a week after the Bahamas updated an emergency COVID-19 declaration that prohibits cruises ships from entering a Bahamas port, including the many cruise lines’ private islands, unless eligible passengers are fully vaccinated. This does not apply to passengers 11 and under who don’t have a vaccine option or to passengers with proof of a medical reason they cannot get a vaccine.

The Bahamas order goes into effect Sept. 3 and lasts through October for now. On Tuesday, Disney posted its amended policy to follow the same approach as Royal Caribbean, Carnival, MSC Cruises and Celebrity, all of which sail from Florida and had allowed some unvaccinated passengers.

Cruise lines have opted to require vaccines from its eligible passengers from every U.S. state except Florida because of the law that went into effect July 1, which threatens to fine companies $5,000 per instance for any time a business demands proof of vaccination.

8:50 a.m. Israel has registered almost 10,000 new coronavirus infections in one day for the first time since January, as the Health Ministry reported 9,831 new cases on Tuesday.

This is a jump compared to last week, although the amount of testing has also increased slightly.

According to the ministry, 6.63 per cent of just under 153,000 tests were positive over the past 24 hours. Twelve people with an infection died and the number of seriously ill people dropped to 678.

Children up to 9 years old continue to have the highest proportion of new infections.

Since June, the number of new cases in Israel has been rising significantly again.

So far, just under 59 per cent of the approximately 9.4 million Israelis have been vaccinated twice. Almost 17 per cent have already received a third vaccination.

At the end of July, Israel became the first country in the world to give a third vaccination as a booster.

8:45 a.m. Johnson & Johnson said a booster of its COVID-19 vaccine provided a rapid and strong increase in antibodies, supporting use of a second shot among people who previously received its single-dose immunization.

A second dose of the J&J vaccine led to a ninefold increase in COVID-fighting antibodies compared with the levels participants had 28 days after getting their first shot, the health-care giant said Wednesday, citing interim data from an early-stage trial.

Trial participants were given the booster six months after the first shot, according to J&J. Significant increases in antibody responses were seen in subjects ages 18 to 55 years old, and among those 65 or older who were given a lower dose of the booster. The data are being submitted to a preprint medical publication, MedRxiv.

The latest findings, coupled with data showing the single shot’s durability through at least eight months, underscore a future booster strategy, said Mathai Mammen, global head of research and development for J&J’s pharmaceutical subsidiary Janssen.

8:10 a.m. China went on the offensive Wednesday ahead of the release of a U.S. intelligence report on the origins of the coronavirus, bringing out a senior official to accuse the United States of politicizing the issue by seeking to blame China.

Fu Cong, a Foreign Ministry director general, said at a briefing for foreign journalists that “scapegoating China cannot whitewash the U.S.”

“If they want to baselessly accuse China, they better be prepared to accept the counterattack from China,” he said.

China, the U.S. and the World Health Organization are entangled in a feud that centers on whether the virus that causes COVID-19 could have leaked from a lab in the city of Wuhan, where the disease was first detected in late 2019.

A joint WHO-China report earlier this year concluded that a lab leak was “extremely unlikely,” and China wants the investigation to move on to other possibilities. The most likely scenario, the report said, is that the virus jumped from bats to another animal that then infected humans.

But the findings are not conclusive, and WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in late March that “all hypotheses are on the table and warrant complete and further studies.”

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.