‘Outside of his tweeting, I like the results’

Trump’s supporters in Michigan are certainly enthusiastic. Along with the thousands who attended the Muskegon rally, hundreds more who had waited in line for hours but were unable to get in stuck around to watch the president on a big video screen outside the venue.

“To see a sitting president come to your hometown is once-in-a-lifetime,” said Todd Twining, who attended the rally with his wife, Mary. He said it was something worth recounting “to our kids, to our grandkids, that we were part of this, in the middle of a pandemic, in the middle of all the chaos and division that’s going on.”

The Twinings credit Trump for a booming, pre-pandemic economy. Todd Twining said that never before had he seen so many “Help Wanted” signs in Michigan as he had under Trump. He also said that as a result of the tax cuts Trump approved in 2017, the furniture company he works at is spending millions of dollars on new machinery.

“You see more enthusiasm than 2016. More people are not afraid to come out and show their support,” Twining said.

Trump is counting on continued support in Calhoun County, which includes the Rust Belt city of Battle Creek, the headquarters for cereal manufacturer Kelloggs. In 2012, Obama beat Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney here by two per cent, yet Trump crushed Clinton by more than 12 per cent four years later.

Mary and Todd Twining are staunch Trump supporters. Todd Twining said, 'You see more enthusiasm [for Trump] than 2016.' (Mark Gollom/CBC)

Mary and Todd Twining are staunch Trump supporters. Todd Twining said, ‘You see more enthusiasm [for Trump] than 2016.’ (Mark Gollom/CBC)

One eager Trump supporter is Republican Dave Morgan, who is running in this election cycle for the Michigan House of Representatives. Morgan is on a leave of absence from his job as an Amtrak engineer and is a proud Teamster. He’s also the former chairman of the Calhoun County Democratic Party.

“I was tired of having to be outraged all the time,” said Morgan. “In the Democratic Party, it seems like you focus more on protesting, outrage, resistance, and I’m more about results. I’m getting too old to be upset every day of my life.”

He credited his party switch, in part, to labour issues. Morgan thought NAFTA was a disaster and that the USMCA deal Trump negotiated to replace it was a win for everybody, particularly the auto industry in Michigan, which he said has seen a big turnaround.

“I’m hoping he wins [again],” Morgan said. “I think outside of his tweeting, I like the results.”

Jeannie Burchfield, chair of the Calhoun County Republican Party, calls Trump’s policies “indisputably good.” It’s a sentiment she said is echoed by the volunteers and supporters she meets every day, including people from different ethnic communities who reject the accusations that Trump is racist or that he refuses to denounce white supremacy.

These supporters blame the media for fuelling these labels, she said, and are more focused on job security and, most importantly for many, strengthening their 401(k), the employer-sponsored retirement plan. “The media doesn’t stand a chance against people’s actual 401(k),” she said.

One of Burchfield’s volunteers helping to spread the word about Trump is 19-year-old Nathan Halder, youth chair for the Calhoun County Republican Party, who has already cast his ballot  — his first in a presidential election — for Trump.

Just hours before Trump’s rally in Muskegon, Halder and two other young Republican volunteers were out knocking on doors in a Battle Creek neighbourhood, trying to convince homeowners to cast their vote for the president.

Nineteen-year-old Nathan Halder, right, and some friends were out recently on behalf of the Calhoun County Republican Party to drum up support for Trump. (Mark Gollom/CBC)

Nineteen-year-old Nathan Halder, right, and some friends were out recently on behalf of the Calhoun County Republican Party to drum up support for Trump. (Mark Gollom/CBC)

Some were receptive to the message, such as the three men inside the garage of one home, dressed in hunting clothes as they carved up a deer that one of the men had just killed with a bow and arrow.

Halder repeated his rehearsed opening line that Trump had created the best economy in 50 years and that if anyone can get it back on track, it’s him. Perhaps reading the room, Halder also stressed that unlike Biden, Trump is staunchly pro-Second Amendment, which guarantees every American the right to bear arms.

“How can we have a president that’s not for the Second Amendment,” said the one man. “You’re president, and you’re going to go against it?”

Kathy Heath, a retired school teacher, also needed no convincing from Halder. She, too, will vote for Trump, whom she believes has stood up to other countries with the message that the U.S. won’t be pushed around anymore. That said, she admitted she doesn’t like Trump’s personality. “I just wish he would keep his mouth shut.”

Not everyone in this neighbourhood appeared to be keen on the president, including the occupants of a house with a “Pro-America, Anti-Trump” sign posted in the yard. Halder decided to bypass that home — that is, until resident Jim Barron came out to chat.

This sign was spotted in a neighbourhood in Battle Creek, Mich. (Mark Gollom/CBC)

This sign was spotted in a neighbourhood in Battle Creek, Mich. (Mark Gollom/CBC)

“Yeah, there’s zero chance I’m voting for that guy,” Barron told Halder. “Yeah, there’s no way in hell. My parents are both at home right now with COVID, and I think the president has done a horrible job of handling COVID-19.”

Then Barron asked the young volunteer,”So, you guys think he’s handled the virus well?”

While Calhoun County has seen a significant spike in COVID-19 cases, Halder defended Trump’s actions, saying the president shut down travel from Europe and China, something he claimed Biden was initially against.

Barron countered by saying the president could have imposed a mask mandate and that he was “talking shit about Biden wearing a mask” when he himself may have already been infected with the coronavirus during the first presidential debate on Sept. 29.

“The president is out there saying, ‘It’s not a big deal, I feel better than I’ve ever felt before,'” Barron said. “Well, that’s cool you can get all these advanced treatments. My dad can’t get that. He’s just at home, laid out but suffering for weeks, and the president’s on TV saying, ‘No big deal’ about it.”

The back and forth between Halder and Barron stayed polite, and in the end, they agreed to disagree.

“I just say Trump has done everything that he can to handle the virus,” Halder said.

“Two-hundred-thousand people have died from it,” Barron responded. “I think he could have done a better job.”

Much will be known on U.S. election night, though it may not satisfy Trump

Much will be known on U.S. election night, though it may not satisfy Trump

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated an increase in mail-in and early voting, which was already taking place in recent elections, and has led to talk of an election “season” of vote counting — a development that has chagrined U.S. President Donald Trump.

“It would be very, very proper and very nice if a winner were declared on Nov. 3, instead of counting ballots for two weeks, which is totally inappropriate, and I don’t believe that’s by our laws,” Trump said between campaign stops on Tuesday.

Trump appeared to be confusing media projections with actual certified results from the states themselves. He did not object, for example, when Arizona was projected for him by the networks on election night in 2016 but not officially certified by the state until two days later.

“Results are never certified on the night of the election,” Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said on Tuesday. Boockvar’s statement applies nationwide, with state certifications taking place between Nov. 5 and Dec. 8.

With one big exception in 2000, which caused a reorganization and rethink of modelling and exit poll methods, media projections the night of an election have been on point. It’s the process which enabled Trump to make a victory speech around 3 a.m. ET after election night in 2016, as Hillary Clinton had conceded to his campaign 30 minutes earlier, even with very close margins in four states, three of which went to Trump.

Trump’s rationale would see many Americans outside of the country, including service members, disenfranchised if their ballots aren’t received by election day. The State Department estimated over 614,000 cast a ballot outside the U.S. in 2016, including over 51,000 serving in the military.

In fairness to the president, things can get confusing in the United States with no overriding federal election commission. The decentralized electoral college system sees many states projected the minute after polls close, while others are unclear.

So, here’s a look at who makes the projections, an estimated time frame for some key states and a few examples that illustrate the republic has survived waiting several hours or longer not knowing the result.

The media

CNN and the traditional three U.S. over-air networks ABC, CBS and NBC form the National Election Pool (NEP) consortium, utilizing Edison Research data. The Associated Press trumpets the 2018 midterm performance of its VoteCast survey, also used by Fox News.

“If AP cannot definitively say a candidate has won, we don’t speculate,” David Scott, AP deputy managing editor, said this week.

Dan Merkle, executive director of elections at ABC News, made similar comments to its polling website partner, FiveThirtyEight, assigning a confidence level of 99.5 per cent before its consortium would make a call in any state.

People wait in line to apply for mail-in or absentee ballots at the County Office Building on Tuesday in Pittsburgh. Officials in Pennsylvania on that date urged voters with absentee ballots to drop them off at ballot boxes or county election offices instead of mailing them. (Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/The Associated Press)

Generally speaking, the media organizations and their vendors employ exit polls of early and same day voters, phone polls of early and mail-in voters and statistical models that follow recent trends at a granular county or district level. Projections aren’t made until a representative sample from the state, geographically and demographically, can be assured.

It’s important to remember that, in terms of the presidential contest, most states are not up for grabs. 

Both the Cook Political Report and nonpartisan aggregator 270 to Win have a total of 337 electoral college votes categorized as not in doubt at all or little doubt. All told, about 15 states are rated as toss-up or as a “lean” to one party or the other.

“States like Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, those are states that we expect to count similar to in the past.… If it’s a one- or two-point race, yes, we’ll be waiting for more data. But if we have a few-point margin, three, four, five points, those races should be projectable,” Merkle told FiveThirtyEight.

Florida state officials were able to begin processing and verifying early ballots 22 days before the election, so their dump of results in the early hours after polls close will be significant and a mix of early and day-of voters.

WATCH l Texas activists work hard to overcome voting obstacles:

Several changes to the mail-in voting process and a slew of legal challenges in Pennsylvania means thousands of votes in the U.S. election could potentially be thrown out in the crucial swing state. 3:06

In a scenario where Florida’s 29 electoral college votes can be projected for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, Trump’s path is foggy at best.

Jim Messina, a former campaign manager for Barack Obama, told the New Yorker this week his consulting group has over 60,000 different simulations involving different pathways, and all theoretical Trump wins involve him carrying Florida.

“It’s just the math,” said Messina.

If Florida indeed goes to Trump or is up in the air, the focus turns to a small number of northeastern and Midwestern states.

States such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania would most likely not be projected on election night, ABC’s Merkle said, and therefore it would be “somewhat surprising” if an overall winner of the presidency is projected on election night or into its wee hours.

The states

Some 70 million Americans had voted by Oct. 27, and states vary as to whether those ballots can be processed ahead of the closing of in-person polls, as well as what date postmarked ballots will be accepted by.

Officials from the perceived swing states are confident they can handle the increase in early voting.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is shown in Detroit last month. Michigan can’t process early ballots until polls have closed on Nov. 3, but Benson has expressed confidence her state’s vote count can be processed that same week. (Paul Sancya/The Associated Press)

“Our estimate is Friday [Nov. 6] before we can ensure all these ballots will be tabulated and processed,” Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said recently.

“I do expect the overwhelming majority of ballots will be counted in a couple of days,” Pennsylvania’s Boockvar has said, while for his part Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has said he expects their result to be known by Nov. 4.

These states aren’t laggards. States such as Utah and Washington are expected to take longer to fully tabulate their results. But those states won’t be eyed obsessively as they are seen as comfortably projected for Trump and Biden, respectively.

If Ohio can’t be projected on election night, things could get interesting. Under state law, there are no results announced between election night and when the final total is certified, a time frame of weeks given that the postmarked ballots are eligible to be counted if received by Nov. 13.

The state says it will update outstanding absentee vote totals, which could help deduce if it’s statistically possible for a candidate to catch up.

Americans have gone to bed uncertain

U.S. elections are held on the first Tuesday in November, and even in less challenging times than a pandemic, the accepted result spilled into the next day or later.

As historian Michael Beschloss pointed out in a 2016 article, despite a subdued speech around 3 a.m. following election day, Richard Nixon in 1960 did not officially concede. As they would a few more times in the pre-internet age, Americans awoke to an early edition newspaper on their porch stating the race was still too close to call.

NBC broke into a game show around noon that Wednesday with a Nixon aide reading his concession speech to Democratic nominee John F. Kennedy.

WATCH l Monitoring a U.S. election not unusual, but 2020 brings unique challenges:

Urszula Gacek, head of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s election observation mission to the U.S., says her organization has been monitoring every American election since 2002. They’ll be watching for actions that could inhibit the democratic process.  14:31

“The outcome of Tuesday’s election hung in the balance for hours,” The Associated Press reported in 1968. In that year, as well as in 1976 and 2004, candidates conceded to the eventual winner early morning or midday on the Wednesday. 

Americans perhaps got lulled into expecting an immediate result after three landslides in the 1980s followed by two elections in the 1990s that were not especially nail-biting affairs. 

Then came 2000.

Democratic nominee Al Gore famously conceded to George W. Bush after some networks projected Florida to fall for the Republican. Gore soon called Bush back to rescind that concession as more data came in throwing the projection into doubt. Confusing ballots saw some Floridians “overvote” for two candidates and others not sufficiently punch their card for any candidate.

On that Dec. 12, Gore lost a key Supreme Court ruling and conceded the next day. Bush edged Gore by 537 votes in the Florida count.

While those unique circumstances won’t be duplicated, “many of the fundamental pathologies unearthed by the 2000 debacle remain,” writes Richard Hasen in the recent book Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust and the Threat to American Democracy.

“Political actors realized that the courts were fertile grounds for fighting over election rules,” Hasen said.

Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court has had to rule on a number of rule challenges during this campaign, including Wednesday on Pennsylvania’s absentee ballots.

In terms of the media, the fallout from 2000 saw the Voter News Service consortium ditched and eventually replaced by the NEP.

Beware red or blue ‘mirage’

Election experts have warned that results reported in some states on election night could have a red or blue “mirage” — a scenario in which one candidate is ahead but votes counted later show a decided advantage for the other candidate.

Pennsylvania, for example, has reported that Democrats had requested mail-in or absentee ballots by more than a two-to-one margin over Republicans.

In the 2018 midterms, Trump targeted a Florida election official with unsubstantiated allegations of criminal wrongdoing as he seemingly refused to accept that absentee ballots with a decided Democratic advantage began to be tabulated after election night. Those votes narrowed the advantages Republican candidates held — and ultimately retained — in Florida’s gubernatorial and Senate races.

The transition of power relies heavily on good faith dealings between candidates. Trump has only said he’d concede if this year’s result is “fair,” though he hasn’t defined what that means.

Hasen lobbies for the centralized reforms and an end to “blue state” and “red state” approaches to election rules. In order for Americans to respect results this year and beyond, he says, a bipartisan group of respected political elders may need to be called on to attest to the contest’s fairness.

One such group, the National Council of Election of Integrity, slammed Trump’s comments on Tuesday.

“Trump is more a symptom of the American electoral system’s malfunction than a cause,” Hansen wrote. “The problems will exist even after he leaves the political scene.”


What do you want to know about the U.S. election? Your questions help inform our coverage. Email us at Ask@cbc.ca

UPS executive granted special ministerial exemption from Canada’s COVID-19 quarantine

UPS executive granted special ministerial exemption from Canada’s COVID-19 quarantine

The president of U.S. operations for global shipping giant UPS was granted a special ministerial exemption from Canada’s mandatory 14-day COVID-19 quarantine, a CBC News investigation has learned, which he used to lobby Ontario employees to accept the company’s new contract offer.

Nando Cesarone travelled from Atlanta to Toronto for three days of meetings starting Oct. 19.

The company says Cesarone sought and received an authorization for a conditional exemption from mandatory quarantine from Global Affairs Canada.

It’s a decision that the Teamsters, the union representing UPS workers in Canada, finds mystifying.

“We don’t understand why Mr. Cesarone was allowed to come into Canada and why the government waived his 14-day quarantine requirement,” said Christopher Monette, public affairs director for Teamsters Canada.

“We believe the government needs to explain itself on that one. It’s absolutely crucial.”

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne has granted 191 such quarantine exemptions on “business mobility” grounds since the pandemic began — 138 of them over the past six weeks, a spokesperson said. Permission to skip the self-isolation requirement is given only under “exceptional circumstances,” the department said, and applicants must “thoroughly justify the immediacy of their purpose of travel to Canada.”

Global Affairs refused to discuss Cesarone’s exemption, citing the federal Privacy Act. 

Cesarone declined interview requests, and UPS did not respond to written questions about the exact reasons for his trip or why the meetings couldn’t be conducted remotely. 

Nando Cesarone, president of U.S. operations for UPS, travelled from Atlanta to Toronto in October and spent three days meeting with Canadian employees. The company says he sought and received an authorization for a conditional exemption from mandatory quarantine from Global Affairs Canada. (Charles Platiau/Reuters)

But in a statement to CBC News, the company noted that UPS is an essential service, responsible for delivering needed supplies to Canadian businesses and consumers — including personal protective equipment and “hopefully vaccines soon.” 

Cesarone observed “every regulatory and safety protocol” and followed a detailed COVID-19 “risk mitigation plan,” which included wearing a mask, physical distancing and testing, while in the country, the company said.

However, two employees who met with Cesarone dispute the company’s characterization of the trip and his health precautions, telling CBC News that the meetings “were 100 per cent about labour” and that on at least one occasion, the UPS executive removed his mask so that he could be better heard in a crowded room. The employees asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions.

Visit raises issues of transparency, safety: union

Teamsters Canada says that Cesarone’s visit, which included stops at facilities in Toronto and Mississauga, Ont., raises issues of transparency on the part of the company and the federal government, as well as concerns about workplace safety.

“What’s important for us is that everybody is just playing by the same set of pandemic rules,” Monette said. “Just out of respect for the health, the safety of UPS drivers and UPS workers in general — who are, at the end of the day, essential front-line workers.”

Voting on the new labour agreement at UPS began on Oct. 22, and the results are expected to be released on Nov. 2.

Trucks at the Peace Bridge, between Fort Erie, Ont., and Buffalo, N.Y., in September. The Canada-U.S. border has been closed to non-essential travellers since March 21. But 3.5 million people — essential workers such as truckers and health-care providers — have been excused from quarantine. (Jeffrey T. Barnes/The Associated Press)

Officially, Canada’s border has been closed to non-essential travellers since March 21. But according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, more than 4.6 million people have entered the country over the past seven months. Some 1.1 million, mostly Canadian citizens returning from abroad, were obliged to self-isolate for 14 days. The other 3.5 million — essential workers such as truckers, technicians and health-care providers — were excused from quarantine. 

Over the past month, CBC News has uncovered two instances where senior U.S. executives flew into the country on private jets and were granted exemptions by front-line Canada Border Services Agency officers for non-essential meetings and facility tours — cases that Ottawa now calls errors.

But the growing number of special ministerial exemptions has opposition politicians again wondering why Canada’s supposedly closed border appears so porous at a time when COVID-19 cases are spiking around the globe.

Opposition parties question need for visits

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole raised the issue in question period in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

“Last month we learned the Liberal government allowed two different American billionaires to enter Canada, and they waived the quarantine rules,” O’Toole said, going on to ask if there is “one set of rules for the rich friends of this government and one set of rules for everyone else?”

WATCH | Federal party leaders spar over COVID-19 quarantine exemptions:

During question period in the House of Commons, Opposition leader Erin O’Toole grilled Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about quarantine exemptions for business executives as reported by CBC News. 1:24

Jack Harris, the MP for St. John’s East and the NDP’s public safety critic, questions why it was necessary for Cesarone to travel to Canada at all.

“You know, we conduct parliament by Zoom. We do meetings though Zoom…. I don’t see the necessity to have some special exemption like this”, Harris said.

“I can’t go to Ottawa and come back to St. John’s, Newfoundland, without a [provincial] 14-day exemption. We have workers from Newfoundland doing the same thing, coming back to work and having to have a 14-day quarantine here.”

Harris is calling on the Liberal government to share more details about which foreign visitors are being granted exemptions from quarantine and why.

“This idea of behind-closed-doors, non-transparent ministerial exemptions, where you have to dig around to find out why it’s happening, that’s not fair to Canadians,” he said. “And I don’t think Canadians would accept that as fair and reasonable.”  

The federal government has recently begun to relax border restrictions and grant entries on compassionate grounds, allowing more foreign citizens and Canadians who live abroad to reunite with romantic partners or visit sick or dying relatives. 

As of Tuesday, Health Canada had received 2,250 such applications and exempted 1,335 people from all, or part, of the 14-day quarantine for what the government decided were compelling personal reasons. Another 630 people were allowed into the country, but forced to self-isolate for the full two weeks.   

Canadian ICUs brace for COVID-19 resurgence on top of the flu

Canadian ICUs brace for COVID-19 resurgence on top of the flu

Intensive care physicians and nurses share their concerns as they brace for an influx of patients that threatens to overwhelm hospitals due to the resurgence of the coronavirus and the flu.

When Canadians successfully flattened epidemic curves during the summer, the goal was to prevent hospitals and intensive care units from facing a crush of too many patients with COVID-19 all at once. Health officials wanted to avoid what happened in hospitals in New York City, where refrigerated trailers were used as temporary morgues.

But the recent surge of new coronavirus cases in all provinces beyond Atlantic Canada has already thwarted surgery plans and led to the cancellation of surgeries such as hip replacements at one hospital in Toronto and postponements in Edmonton.

Dr. Bram Rochwerg, an associate professor at McMaster University and critical care lead at the Juravinski Hospital in Hamilton, anticipates a surge of patients with COVID-19, and he worries they won’t be able to accommodate them all as more surgeries resume.

Unlike in the spring, beds and crucial staffing need to be reserved for medical and surgery patients, too. Traditionally, autumn in hospitals means scrambling for health-care workers such as nurses and respiratory therapists to backfill those sick with the cold and flu or who need to stay home to care for sick children.

“We’re all worried about it,” Rochwerg said. “You see the provincial [COVID-19] numbers creep up day by day. We see that critical care numbers [of ICU patients] creep up.”

ICU nurse Patty Tamlin prepares to work with COVID-19 patients in Toronto. Cardiac arrests in hospital are now treated as protected code blues requiring full PPE, which can be fatiguing to wear. (Byron Piedad)

The challenge, Rochwerg said, is to find a balance between adding restrictions to protect vulnerable populations such as residents in long-term care homes while preserving crucial aspects of society.

Lessons learned

Rochwerg also pointed to several lessons physicians worldwide have learned to help take better care of patients critically ill with COVID-19 during the resurgence.

“We should treat them like we would any other patient,” he said. “Sometimes, you just need [to insert] a breathing tube.”

When patients are on a ventilator, it takes the skilled hands of four to six hospital staff, including a respiratory therapist who regularly checks the breathing set up and tubing to ensure the airway is protected, as well as nurses to safely turn or “prone” them onto the stomach to improve ventilation.

WATCH | COVID-19 resurgence raises hospital capacity concerns:

There is growing concern that Ontario hospitals and ICUs, especially in Ottawa and Toronto, may not have enough capacity for COVID-19 patients after weeks of rising infections. 1:55

The importance of getting patients up and out of bed, including those on ventilators when possible, as well as excellent nursing care and other day-to-day supportive care can’t be minimized.

“Supportive care is not the sexy part of it, but it’s so crucial,” Rochwerg said.

It gives patients’ bodies time to heal themselves, he said.

Fear of flood of sick patients

Patty Tamlin, registered nurse working in critical care at a hospital in Toronto’s east end, said she’s also concerned about the coming cold-and-flu season.

“One of the biggest concerns is you may be overrun by patients,” Tamlin said.

A nurse tends to a patient suspected of having COVID-19 in the ICU at North York General Hospital in Toronto in May. It can take up to six staff to safely turn a patient on a ventilator onto their stomach. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Her message to Canadians? “Tell everyone to get their flu shot.”

In the spring, the Ontario government created more beds for patients needing long-term ventilated care at a rehabilitation hospital. Even if administrators find more space for more beds, adding temp agency nurses can only go so far, she said.

“It’s going to be a long time,” Tamlin said. “It’s fatiguing … to have this constantly on our head all the time about COVID on top of our regular work.”

Experience, though, has helped ICU staff to prepare for a resurgence of COVID-19 patients.

“The more you do something, the more comfortable you are with going in and out of a room,” for example, to perform CPR during a “protected code blue” for cardiac arrest when wearing full personal protective equipment, which can be exhausting. The masks, gowns and gloves need to be donned and removed carefully to avoid health-care workers contaminating themselves.

Dr. Eddy Fan, medical director of the Extracorporeal Life Support (ECLS) program at Toronto’s University Health Network, said the increase in COVID-19 cases so far is “manageable.”

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is like an artificial heart and lung machine to support the sickest patients. People with COVID-19 who were intubated at hospitals across Ontario and didn’t improve with conventional therapy were transported to Toronto General for ECMO. 

Still, Fan said, “We’re going to need to brace ourselves for another potential flood of very sick patients.”

During the spring, patients were transferred to Toronto General, but family members could not visit. Fan said cutting off patients from their relatives harmed morale not only among loved ones, but it pained people working in the hospital, too.

Dr. Eddy Fan is medical director of the Extracorporeal Life Support program and a scientist at Toronto General Hospital Research Institute. Fan said doctors now recognize how similar COVID-19 is to other viral infections, as well as some important differences. (Submitted by Eddie Fan)

But influenza season also typically brings patients with lung failure who may need ECMO.

“Their families ask questions like ‘they’re dying of the flu?'” Fan said. “COVID is no different as a viral infection. We see even young patients come with very severe lung failure requiring ECMO.”

During Toronto’s first wave of COVID-19, the team successfully treated a 22-year-old with ECMO.

While respiratory failure from COVID-19 can resemble that of the flu, doctors say the scale is much larger.

Dr. Gregory Haljan, head of Surrey Memorial Hospital’s critical care department in British Columbia, said influenza has vaccines and medical treatments to shorten symptoms and improve death rates. COVID-19 doesn’t, aside from corticosteroids for severe cases.

When Haljan and his co-authors across the Lower Mainland looked at 117 people with COVID-19 who were admitted to ICU between Feb. 20 and April 17, they found the mortality rate ranged from one in six to one in 10.

In comparison, the first studies from China and Italy showed mortality rates as high as one in two or one in three.

A clinician demonstrates how to use a device applied to the finger to monitor oxygen levels over a video conference. Virtual hospitals to keep patients safe at home help prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases. (Women’s College Hospital)

Safety ‘our primary focus’

Haljan credited having time to prepare, Dr. Bonnie Henry’s “outstanding” leadership as the provincial health officer, the support of British Columbians, hard work and luck.

“We never got overwhelmed,” he said.

To prevent being overwhelmed, Haljan said the hospital and its health region focused on basics, including:

  • Engaging patients in the community and long-term care homes through a virtual hospital to keep patients safe at home.
  • Improving communication with centralized repositories of information to avoid mixed messages.
  • Adapting as the science changes.

“It can be a challenge in that things change very, very slowly because safety is our primary focus,” said Haljan, who works at one of the hospitals caring for among the highest volume of patients in the emergency department, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

“Research is how we keep change safe.”

Haljan said that includes research  not only on vaccines and drugs but also measuring patterns and assessing them in areas such as delivering health services.

Bank of Canada says economy will likely be scarred by COVID-19 until 2023

Bank of Canada says economy will likely be scarred by COVID-19 until 2023

Maybe it’s his job to prepare us for the worst, but Canada’s chief central banker, Tiff Macklem, has warned of a long, slow recovery as successive rounds of COVID-19 lead to a “scarring” of the domestic and world economy.

After what some see as a false dawn this summer as the economy resurged, Macklem, governor of the Bank of Canada, and his senior deputy, Carolyn Wilkins, offered a gloomy outlook for an economy that they say is unlikely to get back on track until 2023.

Not only that, but jobs — hit harder in this recession than the last one — are disproportionately affecting Canadians with the lowest wages. While 425,000 jobs disappeared following the 2008 credit crisis, this time around, employment has been cut by 700,000.

And Macklem said some of those jobs may never come back.

“We’re going to get through this, but it’s going to be a long slog,” he said at a virtual meeting with financial reporters on Wednesday.

Good news? Lower for longer

The good news, if you could call it that, was that the central bankers have committed to keeping interest rates at current extraordinarily low levels until inflation climbs back to between two and three per cent, which they don’t foresee as likely for three years.

Forecasting the economy is always something of a guessing game, but Macklem and Wilkins said that this time there was added uncertainty because of not knowing what the novel coronavirus is going to do next.

The central bankers made it very clear that the current outlook depends on a number of assumptions about the path of the pandemic that may turn out to be better or worse than they currently foresee.

Among those assumptions is that the virus will return in succeeding waves, each less damaging than the last. Another is that a vaccine will not become widely available until 2022, a sobering estimate from sober central bankers that may be disheartening for those who had hoped U.S. President Donald Trump’s optimistic outlook of an October vaccine launch was more than just electioneering.

In the past, U.S. President Donald Trump — shown during a tour of the Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies’ Innovation Center in Morrrisville, N.C., in July — has suggested a vaccine would be available before the Nov. 3 election, but Canada’s sober central bankers are more pessimistic. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

By promising that interest rates will stay low until 2023 — something central bankers call “forward guidance” — Macklem said he hopes businesses and consumers can confidently borrow for the medium term without fear that interest rates, and therefore loan repayments, will suddenly shoot up.

That’s good if you are buying a new stove but not for a home, or for a longer-term business investment. To influence those longer-term rates, the central bank has shifted the way it buys bonds as part of its quantitative easing plan that it initiated for the first time following the COVID-19 market disruption.

When the market crisis hit in early spring, the bank bought short-term bonds to help increase the amount of money in circulation, reassuring investors, Macklem said. But now that markets are working more normally, the Bank of Canada has reduced its monthly bond purchases from $5 billion to $4 billion and is switching to buying bonds that don’t mature for up to 30 years, in theory making longer-term loans cheaper.

Economy scarred by COVID-19

But while making borrowing cheap will help, the central bank worries that it won’t be enough to prevent the economy from being scarred by large employment losses as some people’s jobs never come back.

“We’ve assumed that a fraction of these people are permanent,” Wilkins said. “That’s because with COVID, not only is the recovery going to take longer so that there is more chance there’ll be scarring, it’s also the types of jobs created.”

As the economy rebounds, she said, the new jobs available will not match the skills of those who became unemployed. Among those worst hit will be women and young people.

“The effects of this pandemic have been extremely uneven,” Macklem said, directing reporters to a “particularly stunning” chart in the Monetary Policy Report, reproduced below, showing low-income workers have suffered more and their jobs have uniquely failed to recover.

Just as we saw during the long climb out of the last recession, replacing those jobs will require new private investment, some of it in entirely new sectors. But with so much uncertainty — and so much permanent structural change — Macklem said many companies will be hesitant to invest until things begin to stabilize.

“Clearly we are seeing a resurgence of the virus — it’s happening in Canada and it’s happening elsewhere,” he said.

Macklem’s current economic outlook is only a best guess based on so many unknowns. It may be that the virus gets even worse, he said, and it may be that a vaccine does not arrive until later than the bank has estimated or that it is ineffective.

But while the central bank is compelled to consider the bleakest case in its economic planning, Macklem does not exclude the possibility of a far less gloomy outcome, which he said would be “wonderful.”

“There’s certainly scenarios where a vaccine is available early next year and it proves effective, and we can deploy it at scale so that by the end of the year, we don’t need to physically distance anymore.”

And from a central banker, that is a positive ray of sunshine.

Follow Don Pittis on Twitter: @don_pittis

Opioid deaths skyrocket, mental health suffers due to pandemic restrictions, new federal report says

Opioid deaths skyrocket, mental health suffers due to pandemic restrictions, new federal report says

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on Canadians suffering from mental illness, opioid addiction and other substance abuse problems, says a new study released today by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) which confirms anecdotal reports warning that the pandemic’s health consequences extend well beyond COVID-19 itself.

Efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 through social distancing and shutdowns have kept the Canadian caseload relatively low compared to other jurisdictions globally. But the overall health of the population has deteriorated over the last eight months, with more people turning to drugs, alcohol, tobacco and screen time over physical exercise to cope with the stress.

“This year’s annual report describes the heavy toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Canadian society, both directly and indirectly,” Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Wednesday as she released her agency’s annual report.

“These findings are more than just uncomfortable facts about our country during this pandemic. They’re the lived realities of countless Canadians.”

One pandemic, different levels of risk

Confirming what has been well-documented already, PHAC found that long-term care (LTC) homes have been the epicentre of COVID-19-related deaths because “pandemic preparedness did not extend into these settings.” The report said LTC facilities’ limited supplies of personal protective equipment, old infrastructure, poor ventilation and chronic understaffing lead to more infections.

Racial minorities in Canada also have been far more likely to contract the virus, PHAC found. The report says Arab, Black, Middle Eastern, Latin American, South Asian and Southeast Asian Canadians accounted for more than 80 per cent of the cases in Toronto, despite collectively making up slightly more than half of the city’s population.

While the reasons for this minority/majority split in the caseload numbers are unclear, PHAC suggested that pre-existing health disparities, the stress of racism and the preponderance of low-wage work in high-risk places could be to blame.

Beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada is still in the grips of an opioid crisis — a crisis that is now much worse than it was just a year ago. With travel and border restrictions in place, the local opioid supply has grown more toxic and dangerous, PHAC said.

While Canada made meaningful progress in reducing the rate of overdoses in 2018-19, the number of deaths has increased significantly since the start of this year.

A surge in opioid deaths

In B.C., there were more than 100 “illicit drug toxicity” deaths per month for six consecutive months from March to August 2020, and more than 175 such deaths each month in May, June and July, according to data compiled by PHAC.

B.C.’s highest monthly opioid death toll, in June 2020, was 181, up from 76 in June 2019. First Nations people account for a disproportionate number of these deaths.

In July, B.C. paramedics responded to a record high number of overdose calls — a 75 per cent spike in calls compared to the same month last year. Paramedics in B.C. also responded that month to an average of 87 overdose calls a day, or 2,706 calls.

Last week, the B.C. Coroners Service said 1,202 people have died of fatal overdoses so far this year, compared to just 983 deaths in all of 2019. The death toll in B.C. in September was more than double the 60 fatalities recorded in the same month last year.

Preliminary data from Ontario also show that the number of confirmed and probable deaths from opioid-related causes has increased by almost 50 per cent, from 148 deaths in January to 220 deaths in May.

Alberta also experienced a dramatic increase in opioid-related deaths in the three-month period from April to June 2020 — 302 deaths, up from the previously recorded high of 211 deaths in a three-month period in 2018.

PHAC heard from frontline workers who said that, because of social restrictions, many more people have been using opioids alone, “decreasing the chance of intervention if they overdose and contributing to the increase in overdose-related fatalities.”

Physical distancing measures at safe-consumption sites designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 also resulted in more opioid-related deaths.

At least one supervised consumption site in Ottawa did away with physical distancing measures after several clients overdosed while waiting in line to get in.

We’re drinking and smoking more, moving less

Meanwhile, many Canadians have increased their use of alcohol, cannabis and tobacco during this pandemic.

By early summer, based on surveys by Statistics Canada, alcohol consumption was up 19 per cent, cannabis use jumped 8.3 per cent and tobacco smoking rates were up by 3.9 per cent over pre-pandemic levels.

The pandemic and its resulting restrictions on social and economic life have had a lasting impact on mental health.

PHAC found that, due to shelter-in-place restrictions, more women have had to stay with abusive partners and LGBTQ kids have been confined to homes with homophobic and transphobic parents and caregivers.

But it’s not just the vulnerable and marginalized among us who have seen notable drops in mental wellness.

Canada has gone from one of the happiest countries in the world — ninth out of 156 countries according to a 2019 UN report — to one that is noticeably less so.

Less happy, more anxious

In 2018, 68 per cent of Canadians age 15 years and older reported excellent or very good self-perceived mental health. This figure dropped to 54 per cent in late March and early April 2020 before going lower still to 48 per cent in early May, according to Statistics Canada data.

Indigenous people, the disabled and low-income Canadians also have reported experiencing more suicidal thoughts since the outbreak, PHAC found.

While thousands of Canadians have died from COVID-19 — nearly 80 per cent of them in long-term care homes, as of August— there were also more deaths in general this year than last.

“Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec all showed increased numbers of deaths compared to the same time period over the past five years. Some of these additional deaths are directly related to COVID-19, however contributions from other causes not directly linked to COVID-19 cannot be excluded,” PHAC concluded.

Hospitals have seen a drop in walk-in patients for other maladies in emergency rooms. Surgeries have been cancelled or postponed due to capacity restraints, and health professionals fear that people may be avoiding necessary medical care because of pandemic-related worries.

With gyms closed in many jurisdictions and recreational sports leagues on pause, some Canadians are less active. Those who weren’t particularly active before March 2020 lockdown reported being even less so in the months that followed.

More than 60 per cent of Canadians reported spending more time using the internet and watching TV during the pandemic in early April.

“Limited physical activity as a result of public health measures to physically isolate may also have an impact on mental health. Research has demonstrated that people who were able to engage in physical activity outdoors were more likely to report excellent or very good mental health,” PHAC said.

Canada quietly prepares for the possible challenges of a Biden presidency

Canada quietly prepares for the possible challenges of a Biden presidency

Joe Biden dropped in on Ottawa back in December 2016 — just a month before becoming the former U.S. vice president — to salute a Canadian-American relationship that would soon be tested by Donald Trump.

“The partnership between Canada and the United States is among the most robust, most complex and most important in the world,” Biden told premiers and Indigenous leaders as his host, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, sat by his side. “We are deeply interconnected in every way. Our people. Our economy. Our environments.”

Those were reassuring words coming from a man who knows Canada well, whose personal and professional connections to this country are deep — and who could very well be the president-elect of the United States next week.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and then-U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrive at a state dinner in Ottawa on Dec. 8, 2016. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

The family of Biden’s first wife came from Canada; they visited often before she was killed, along with their young daughter, in a horrifying traffic accident in 1972.

At a dinner party during that same December visit four years ago, Biden said his sons wanted to be Mounties when they grew up.

“We are more like family than allies,” he said at the dinner. “At least, that’s the way the vast majority of Americans feel about Canada and Canadians, and I hope you feel that way about us as well.”

Even Biden’s choice for running mate on the 2020 Democratic ticket has strong Canadian ties. Sen. Kamala Harris spent her high school years in Montreal, where her mother was a professor at McGill University.

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) accepts the Democratic vice presidential nomination on August 19, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Harmony … up to a point

So, would a Biden win be good for Canada?

Observers say harmony would replace at least some of the discord of the past four years under President Trump — who deployed tariffs, insults and threats when dealing with his country’s largest trading partner.

“There are a number of policy areas in which a Biden administration would be much closer to Canada,” said former Trudeau foreign policy advisor Roland Paris, now a professor at the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

“Climate change, standing up for allies, defending democracy and human rights at home and abroad … the list goes on.”

There’s a ‘but’, of course.

“It’s also true that Joe Biden has run on a nationalist economic agenda and that has to be a concern in Ottawa,” Paris said.

Start with the slogans Trudeau and Biden chose for their pandemic economic recovery plans. Trudeau’s is “build  back better.” Biden’s is “build America back better.”

Protectionist tendencies 

Biden’s platform doesn’t see Canada in the same light the candidate did four years ago.

Biden’s recovery plan includes “Buy American” measures in its $400 billion procurement strategy and commits to attracting new investment and returning manufacturing supply chains to the United States.

He also would rescind federal approval for the $8 billion Keystone XL pipeline project — still seen by many Canadians as a critical support for an energy sector in trouble. And despite his 36 years in the Senate, including two stints as chair of the powerful foreign affairs committee, Biden has never shown any inclination to solve the softwood lumber problem — the biggest, longest-running bilateral trade dispute between the two countries.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s reliance on tariffs to correct what he sees as trade imbalances has made the Canada-U.S. relationship less certain. (Alex Brandon/AP Photo)

It all represents a threat to the trading partnership — not the kind of threat that Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum represented, but one that still will require vigilance on the federal government’s part to protect Canada’s access to the U.S. market.

Democrats are, by tradition and inclination, more protectionist than Republicans because of their strong ties to the labour movement and a political base highly concentrated in urban America.

Ottawa braces for a sweep

Paris said the Trudeau government will have to be nimble in protecting Canada’s interests — especially if the Democrats also gain control of the Senate on Tuesday.

“I think there is likely to be strong support if that happens for a new Buy America approach by a Biden administration,” he said. “It points to the importance of Canada redoubling its efforts to reach out to politicians at all levels of government.”

Canada has been preparing for the possibility of a Democratic sweep. Trudeau spoke this week to his ambassador to the U.S., Kirsten Hillman, and the 13 Canadian consul-generals across the country.

One Canadian official, speaking on background, said the Biden and Harris connections to Canada have been “overblown” by the media.

But there are other ties. Biden’s campaign chair, Jen O’Malley Dillon, worked with Liberal operatives in advance of the 2015 Canadian election. Susan Rice, former national security adviser to Barack Obama, is married to a Canadian and also has close ties to both Biden and the Trudeau team.

Canadian officials have been renewing their contacts with American policy makers, emphasizing a shared commitment to reducing climate-changing emissions and promoting a coordinated North American response to the pandemic — including cooperation on vaccine research and the production of personal protective equipment.

“Joe Biden is a known commodity,” said Peter Boehm, a long-serving Canadian diplomat before his appointment to the Senate. “He knows the files. He has a long track record from his time in the Senate and vice-president, so it won’t be a steep learning curve if he becomes President Biden.”

Trudeau and his team are not taking sides ahead of Tuesday’s results. And even if Biden wins, his personal connections to Trudeau and Canada guarantee nothing as far as the bilateral relationship is concerned.

He’ll still be paid in U.S. dollars to defend U.S. interests — no matter how close his ties to this country might be.

WATCH: How a Biden presidency might affect Canada

If Joe Biden wins the U.S. presidential election, Canadians could feel the impact in areas like energy, trade and defence. 6:42

Polls say Trump is in danger. These swing voters are why

Polls say Trump is in danger. These swing voters are why

These are some of the most powerful voters in the world. If the polls are to be believed, and we’ll soon discover if they are, they are the types of people who would end Donald Trump’s presidency.

Meet America’s shifting voters.

They represent a small slice of the electorate yet wield a colossal influence, not only on the politics of their country but on the U.S. relationship with the world.

They fall into several sub-categories — self-described independents, moderates and centrists; occasional voters; new voters; and third-party dabblers, and they tend to lack enthusiasm for either major party.

And these people appear to be turning on Trump. Surveys in advance of the Nov. 3 U.S. election find the president bleeding support from these voters. 

Peg Bohnert lives in Arizona’s key Maricopa County. She voted for Trump in 2016. He lost her quickly. (CBC News)

Peg Bohnert is one of them. 

The Arizona retiree describes herself as an independent who leans Republican. She voted for Trump in 2016, figuring she’d give him a chance, in the hope the federal government might run more efficiently under a businessman.

By Day 2 of Trump’s presidency, she concluded she’d made a mistake. 

It happened when the first White House press briefing of the Trump era was dedicated to arguing about the size of his inauguration crowd. The subsequent four years have only cemented her antipathy toward him.

‘I trusted Trump’ — until Day 2

“I trusted [Trump]. I no longer trust him, and I won’t trust him again. Because he lies,” Bohnert said.  

“No moral compass. No empathy. No kindness.”

She said she’s shy nowadays when she travels to even identify as an American: “He’s made us look like fools — as a country.”

A major reason Trump won in 2016 was support from the so-called double-haters — people who disliked both him and Hillary Clinton.

Che Eng is one of them. He reluctantly cast his ballot for Trump in 2016.

“I despised Hillary [Clinton],” said the Arizona medical doctor. “Trump was an outsider. I gave him a chance.”

He’s disdainful of both major parties, seeing them as irresponsible, with Democrats too far left and Republicans too far right.

The ‘double-haters’ turn on Trump

His breaking point with Trump came in late 2017; he worried about federal analysis showing a growing national debt because of a tax-cut bill Trump signed.

While he’s no big fan of Joe Biden’s, either, Eng voted for him a few days ago.

“It pains me,” Eng said of voting Democrat. 

This Arizona doctor dislikes both parties, and deeply disliked Hillary Clinton. So he voted for Trump in 2016. He won’t be doing that again this year. (‘Che’ Eng)

He’s so worried about his Republican friends finding out, he asked that his first name not be used in this story, and that “Che,” a variation on his middle name, be used instead. 

Couldn’t back Clinton, will back Biden

Arlene Macellaro was another voter uninspired by her options in 2016. 

She’s a longtime Republican, and former health-care administrator living in Florida’s massive Villages retirement community.

She nearly cast a ballot for Hillary Clinton — but got cold feet. 

WATCH | Why this Republican is voting for Joe Biden: 

Arlene Macellaro lives in a staunchly Republican retirement city in Florida called The Villages, but says she won’t be voting for Donald Trump this election. 0:31

Macellaro opted not to vote at all. She was scared off by the emails scandal; when the FBI announced two weeks before election day 2016 that it was reopening an investigation into Clinton, Macellaro decided to stay home, rather than help elect a president who might immediately face criminal indictment.

She’s all in for Biden now. 

“Someone asked me yesterday, ‘How does it make you feel when you think that your vote, if it’s for Joe Biden, could change the complexion and feel of your Republican Party?'” Macellaro said in an interview.

“My answer is, ‘I feel good about it because I feel that it gives us hope to believe in the America that I grew up in.'”

The people quoted so far in this story share a few attributes common to the groups of voters turning most aggressively against Trump.

All live in suburbs, they don’t have the strongest partisan affiliation, two are women, and they are seniors or, in the case of 62-year-old Eng, close to retirement.

Problems with seniors, suburbs, women, and others

Polls say the president is bleeding votes across those groups and others — including both college-educated and non-college-educated white voters.

Yasser Sanchez is a Latino, a Mormon, and a lawyer in Arizona.

Until recently, he was also a committed Republican — one who actively campaigned for past nominees John McCain and Mitt Romney.

“I never saw a day where I would [support the Democrats],” Sanchez said.

“[Then] Donald Trump happened. … Donald Trump happened to the Republican Party. … Not only will I be voting Joe Biden — I will be campaigning actively to get out the vote for Joe Biden.”

Sanchez describes Trump as an autocrat-in-the-making, an existential threat to American democracy, and he calls this the most important election since the Civil War.

WATCH | Why this Republican is campaigning for Joe Biden in Arizona:

Yasser Sanchez previously campaigned for Mitt Romney and John McCain but this election he’s working to get Joe Biden into the White House. 0:27

New voters enter the mix

Meanwhile, young people keep entering the pool of eligible voters. And they favour Democrats by a huge margin. A big question mark is whether they’ll turn out this year, given their lacklustre support for Biden in his party primaries.

Some early indications suggest they are, indeed, voting in greater numbers than in 2016, when lower turnout among young and minority voters hurt Clinton in key swing states.

Nineteen-year-old TeJean Neal just cast his first-ever presidential election ballot in swing-state Wisconsin.

The Milwaukee university student dislikes both candidates: he derides Biden as a neoliberal, old-school, pro-business politician.

But he’s voted for him anyway, in order to oust a president he calls far more dangerous: he calls Trump a budding fascist, whose policies disproportionately hurt minority and marginalized people.

“It’s not an enthusiastic vote. It’s an I-have-privilege vote,” said Neal, a student of film and African-diaspora studies at the University of Wisconsin.  

Tejean Neal voted in his first presidential election this year. He cast a ballot for Biden, but with little enthusiasm. (Alex Panetta/CBC News)

“There are more people who would be hurt by the fascist than the neoliberal.”

He said he intends to protest a Biden administration from Day 1, on issues from police reform to transitioning from fossil fuels.

But the immediate objective, he said, is beating Trump.

Mateo Gomez has also just entered the eligible-voting pool. He arrived in the U.S. as a toddler from Colombia; he’s now a 22-year-old MBA student in Florida. 

Gomez said he agonized over his vote, his first chance to cast a ballot since obtaining U.S. citizenship. 

Unlike Neal, he sees himself as a centrist.

He has participated in town halls with politicians of both parties (including one with Biden) and sees himself as a bit of a peacemaker when his family and friends argue about politics.

Mateo Gomez just voted in his first election. He considered Trump, but went for Biden. (CBC News)

Gomez said he considered voting for Trump right up to the last minute – but wound up casting an early ballot for Biden. 

The reason? He blamed Republican efforts to end the Obamacare health-insurance system, which his family relies on; he said he also wants better pay for teachers, and more action on climate change. 

Gomez lives just north of Miami, one of the places in the U.S. most threatened by flooding and extreme weather.

“I try to see both sides. I try to avoid the drama,” he said.

Gomez notes, however, that many fellow Latinos will vote for Trump in this state — which is critical to the president’s re-election.

Trump has especially actively courted Cubans, and Venezuelans, who come from nations marked by left-wing authoritarianism.

They’re being bombarded with warnings that Democrats will usher in socialism, as well as some downright bizarre conspiracy theories.

Possible bright spot for Trump? Minority voters

That speaks to a contrast in this election.

While polls suggest Trump is losing support from most demographic segments, he’s gained some ground with minority voters — performing as well as, or even better, than he did in 2016.

He’s still trailing significantly among those groups. But some surveys suggest he may be slightly reducing the Democrats’ margin with Black men and Hispanic voters.

Cuban-born Miriam Weiss said the enthusiasm for Trump is evident in caravans you see in Miami on weekends, consisting of thousands of cars, waving Trump flags.

Miriam Weiss, a Trump supporter, said Cuban-American turnout in Florida will be huge and in the incumbent’s favour. (CBC News)

She’s been supporting Republicans since John F. Kennedy’s failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961, months after she immigrated to the U.S.

But she predicted more Cubans would support Republicans than usual — in the fear that socialism is taking over the Democratic Party, and that Biden won’t stop it.

“If people vote for Biden we will be getting communism here within two years,” Weiss said.

Those attitudes aren’t limited to Florida, or to Cuban-Americans. 

A recent Pew survey estimated Trump’s deficit with Hispanic voters is narrower in nine swing states than nationwide.

Trump fan says polls are wrong

Sylvia Menchaca is one such Trump supporter. She’s a religious conservative, and entrepreneur who runs a Mexican restaurant in Arizona.

She said she feels sorry for migrant children separated from their parents under Trump’s border policy. 

But she said the president has a responsibility to protect the border.

In fact, she compared Trump to a biblical king — a flawed man, with a divine mission to protect his country.

WATCH |Cuban-born Republican on why she’s sticking with Donald Trump:

Miriam Weiss says she and other Latinos are voting for Donald Trump because, she says, he has delivered on his promises. 0:31

And she thinks all those polls we’re looking at will soon reveal themselves to be absolute junk.

“You think Biden’s leading. You all think Biden’s leading,” Menchaca told a reporter in an interview. 

“It’s so funny. … But it’s okay. [Trump’s] going to win.”

With files from Paul Hunter and Marie Claudet in Arizona, and Susan Ormiston and Marie Morrissey in Florida.

Trudeau says pandemic ‘sucks’ as COVID-19 compliance slips and cases spike

Trudeau says pandemic ‘sucks’ as COVID-19 compliance slips and cases spike

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today he understands that Canadians are increasingly frustrated by “annoying” measures designed to curb the spread of COVID-19, but he’s urging people to stay the course as cases continue to climb in some parts of the country.

Canada is in the grips of a second pandemic wave. Some provinces — notably Alberta, B.C., Ontario, Manitoba and Quebec — are now seeing case counts larger than those reported in the spring, at the onset of the pandemic.

“This sucks, it really, really does,” Trudeau told a COVID-19 press briefing this morning. “It’s going to be a tough winter. It’s easy for us to want to throw up our hands … it’s frustrating to have to go through this situation.

“Nobody wanted 2020 to be this way, but we do get to control how bad it gets by all of us doing our part.”

Trudeau said Canadians must get this latest pandemic wave under control or risk putting their Christmas festivities in jeopardy.

“Unless we’re really, really careful, there may not be the kinds of family gatherings we want to have at Christmas,” he said.

After a summer lull, the death count in Canada has also started to climb. Hospitalizations and the number of people in intensive care units (ICUs) remain at manageable levels in most regions, despite the cresting caseload.

Some Toronto-area hospitals are nearing 100 per cent capacity as they grapple with both COVID-19 cases and other patients.

Data indicates that younger, healthier people — who are more likely to recover without medical intervention — are driving the COVID-19 spike during this round of the pandemic.

Dr. Howard Njoo, the deputy chief public health officer, said there’s no doubt that Canadians are tired of the restrictions that have upended their social and economic lives for the better part of eight months.

“What we’re seeing around the world is people are suffering from COVID fatigue,” Njoo said.

Another full lockdown is not necessary at this point, he said.

“We want to get back to as normal as possible, the functioning of society,” he said, adding Canada needs to find the “sweet spot” where new cases of COVID-19 don’t threaten to overwhelm the health care system.

Asked if governments bear any responsibility for conflicting messages from federal and provincial leaders and local public health officials about how Canadians should go about their daily lives during the pandemic, Trudeau said the situation on the ground in the provinces and territories varies greatly and does not demand national uniformity.

WATCH: Trudeau questioned about public confusion over pandemic messaging

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke at the bi-weekly pandemic briefing in Ottawa on Tuesday. 2:34

Trudeau said Ottawa is not intent on plunging the country into another shutdown — and the country is better equipped to handle this wave than it was in March and April.

“We have a better understanding of COVID-19. We have better tools to deal with COVID-19 and we can be a little more targeted but, yeah, that means a little more complication in our messages,” Trudeau said.

“It’s frustrating to see friends at the other end of the country doing things you’d love to be able to do but you can’t.”

Trudeau said that when his six-year-old son Hadrien recently asked him if COVID-19 would with us “forever,” he assured him the pandemic  would end — but its impact will depend on Canadians doing their part in the short term by wearing masks wherever possible, keeping a two-metre distance from others and avoiding large social gatherings altogether.

“We need to do the right thing, we need to lean on each other, we need to use all the tools that we can,” he said.

Trudeau sounded a positive note today, too, saying that Canada has placed orders for tens of millions of possible vaccine candidates. He said pharmaceutical companies are developing promising treatments.

“Vaccines are on the horizon. Spring and summer will come and they will be better than this winter,” he said.

All told, the federal government has secured 358 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines — an insurance policy if some of the vaccines in development prove to be ineffective in clinical trials.

Trudeau urges COVID-19 compliance as fatigue sets in and cases spike

Trudeau urges COVID-19 compliance as fatigue sets in and cases spike

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today he understands that Canadians are increasingly frustrated by “annoying” measures designed to curb the spread of COVID-19, but he’s urging people to stay the course as cases continue to climb in some parts of the country.

Canada is in the grips of a second pandemic wave. Some provinces — notably Alberta, B.C., Ontario, Manitoba and Quebec — are now seeing case counts larger than those reported in the spring, at the onset of the pandemic.

“This sucks, it really, really does,” Trudeau told a COVID-19 press briefing this morning. “It’s going to be a tough winter. It’s easy for us to want to throw up our hands … it’s frustrating to have to go through this situation.

“Nobody wanted 2020 to be this way, but we do get to control how bad it gets by all of us doing our part.”

After a summer lull, the death count in Canada has also started to climb. Hospitalizations and the number of people in intensive care units (ICUs) remain at manageable levels in most regions, despite the cresting caseload.

Some Toronto-area hospitals are nearing 100 per cent capacity as they grapple with both COVID-19 cases and other patients.

Data indicates that younger, healthier people — who are more likely to recover without medical intervention — are driving the COVID-19 spike during this round of the pandemic.

Dr. Howard Njoo, the deputy chief public health officer, said there’s no doubt that Canadians are tired of the restrictions that have upended their social and economic lives for the better part of eight months.

“What we’re seeing around the world is people are suffering from COVID fatigue,” Njoo said.

Another full lockdown is not necessary at this point, he said.

“We want to get back to as normal as possible, the functioning of society,” he said, adding Canada needs to find the “sweet spot” where new cases of COVID-19 don’t threaten to overwhelm the health care system.

Asked if governments bear any responsibility for conflicting messages from federal and provincial leaders and local public health officials about how Canadians should go about their daily lives during the pandemic, Trudeau said the situation on the ground in the provinces and territories varies greatly and does not demand national uniformity.

WATCH: Trudeau questioned about public confusion over pandemic messaging

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke at the bi-weekly pandemic briefing in Ottawa on Tuesday. 2:34

Trudeau said Ottawa is not intent on plunging the country into another shutdown — and the country is better equipped to handle this wave than it was in March and April.

“We have a better understanding of COVID-19. We have better tools to deal with COVID-19 and we can be a little more targeted but, yeah, that means a little more complication in our messages,” Trudeau said.

“It’s frustrating to see friends at the other end of the country doing things you’d love to be able to do but you can’t.”

Trudeau said that when his six-year-old son Hadrien recently asked him if COVID-19 would with us “forever,” he assured him the pandemic  would end — but its impact will depend on Canadians doing their part in the short term by wearing masks wherever possible, keeping a two-metre distance from others and avoiding large social gatherings altogether.

“We need to do the right thing, we need to lean on each other, we need to use all the tools that we can,” he said.

Trudeau sounded a positive note today, too, saying that Canada has placed orders for tens of millions of possible vaccine candidates. He said pharmaceutical companies are developing promising treatments.

“Vaccines are on the horizon. Spring and summer will come and they will be better than this winter,” he said.

All told, the federal government has secured 358 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines — an insurance policy if some of the vaccines in development prove to be ineffective in clinical trials.