COVID-19 Primer: What We Know
and What We Don’t Know

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March 21 update

As novel coronavirus, COVID-19, continues to spread, what we know and don’t know about the epidemic changes almost daily. The number of confirmed cases is now more than 258,000 with 10,544 deaths and 89,922 recoveries.

As of Saturday morning, Canada had 1,087confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19, 15 recoveries and 13 deaths. More than 78,000 people have been tested so far.

New Brunswick and Manitoba both declared a state of emergency Friday, joining Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. The move allows provincial governments to enact measures like limiting public gatherings and directing closures of non-essential businesses. At a press conference announcing the measure, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs reminded travelers returning to that province, including snowbirds, that they need be self-isolate for 14 days and that includes getting home from airports on their own and not going out for groceries.

Other provinces, including Newfoundland and Labrador, P.E.I. Quebec and all three territories have declared public health emergencies, which, depending on their legislation, can give them similar powers to try to stop the transmission of COVID-19.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government is not ruling out a national state of emergency, but it’s “an extreme measure with big implications” and there are other ways the government can try to control the spread of COVID-19 without invoking the Emergencies Act. It replaced the War Measures Act in 1988, but has not been used by the federal government since then.

Trudeau spoke to reporters outside his home, where he remains in self-isolation with his wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, who tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

One of the measures the government has taken, a mutual closing of the Canada-U.S. border to non-essential travel will go into effect at midnight on Friday. Americans and Canadians travelling for leisure will be stopped from crossing. Trade and the movement of goods between the two countries will continue, with truck drivers being screened for symptoms of COVID-19 by border officials.

Canadian citizens and permanent residents returning via Canada-U.S. border crossings, including snowbirds who are coming home early, will be permitted entry.

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