Year in review: A look at news events in March 2020

A look at news events in March 2020:

01 – Former U.S. vice-president Joe Biden scored a resounding victory in South Carolina’s Democratic primary, riding a wave of African-American support to get some badly needed momentum for his White House bid.

01 – The spreading coronavirus epidemic shut down France’s Louvre museum, as Italy was recognized as the epicentre of the outbreak in Europe. A new U.S. government advisory urged Americans not to travel to two Italian regions hardest hit by the new virus, Lombardy and Veneto.

02 – The man who spent two decades as chairman and chief executive officer of General Electric died. Jack Welch was 84. Welch personified what became known as the “cult of the CEO” during the late-1990s boom, and in 1999, Fortune magazine named him “Manager of the Century.”

02 – The number of new COVID-19 cases in China dropped to its lowest level in six weeks, but clusters of infections in South Korea, Italy and Iran continued to expand.

02 – Mark Bourrie was named the final winner of the RBC Taylor Prize. Bourrie beat out four other authors to win the prize, which is shutting down after two decades of celebrating Canadian literary non-fiction.

02 – James Lipton, longtime host of “Inside the Actors Studio,” died in his New York home from bladder cancer at age 93. Lipton interviewed hundreds of master actors and Hollywood luminaries for nearly 25 years on Bravo.

02 – The head of the Public Health Agency of Canada raised the risk level to three, meaning “avoid all non-essential travel.” In addition, Dr. Theresa Tam asked people in Canada who have travelled to Iran to get in touch with health officials and self-isolate for two weeks.

02 – Work resumed on a natural gas pipeline in British Columbia at the centre of protests that disrupted both rail and road traffic across the country.

03 – Finance ministers and central bankers from the G7 industrialized countries decided against a co-ordinated response to the economic threat caused by the new coronavirus, but vowed to use “all appropriate tools” to deal with the issue.

04 – Joe Biden won Maine’s Democratic presidential primary.

04 – Several countries from Italy to Saudi Arabia announced drastic measures to try to stop the spread of the new coronavirus. Hand sanitizer also became a hot commodity, with prices skyrocketing on Amazon and local stores completely selling out as people tried to stock up. The Bank of Canada also announced it cut its key interest rate by half a percentage point to 1.25 per cent and said it would make further adjustments if needed.

04 – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau created a new cabinet committee to monitor the health impacts of the new coronavirus, appointing Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland as chair.

04 – The union representing Canadian performers honoured Sarah Polley as its National Woman of the Year. ACTRA said the actress and filmmaker has inspired others and made a real difference in the way performers and artists are treated and respected in Canada.

05 – Canada reported its first case of human-to-human COVID-19 transmission in B.C.

05 – Starbucks announced it would temporarily suspend the use of reusable cups customers bring into its stores to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. But the company said it will still honour the 10-cent discount for customers who have a travel mug.

05 – Alberta reported its first presumptive case of the novel coronavirus.

06 – Henri Richard, the speedy centre who won a record 11 Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens, died after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 84.

06 – Tim Hortons said it would temporarily stop accepting reusable cups brought in by customers amid concerns about the novel coronavirus outbreak.

07 – The women’s world hockey championships in Nova Scotia were cancelled. It was the second time the women’s worlds were cancelled, after the 2003 tournament scheduled for Beijing was called off because of the SARS outbreak.

07 – Former provincial cabinet minister Steven Del Duca was officially chosen as the new leader of the Ontario Liberal Party. Del Duca took over from former premier Kathleen Wynne, who stepped down after a dismal election result in 2018.

07 – Canadian health officials urged people to avoid cruise ship travel, after a cruise liner with 237 Canadians aboard reported 21 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

07 – Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the entire region of Lombardy and a number of provinces in other regions had been put under lockdown.

08 – Kamala Harris announced her endorsement of Joe Biden as the Democratic choice for president. Harris said she will do everything she can to help elect him.

09 – The actor who played the priest in the 1973 horror classic “The Exorcist” passed away. Max von Sydow was 90.

09 – Stock markets on Bay and Wall streets took a nosedive on jitters about the new coronavirus and collapsing oil prices. Alarm spread through markets in Asia, then Europe, then North America, triggering the first automatic halt in trading on Wall Street in more than two decades.

09 – The interim report into the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max jet revealed software designed to stop an aerodynamic stall pushed the plane’s nose down as the pilots struggled to control the jet. All 157 people aboard, including 18 Canadians, died on March 10, 2019, when the jet slammed into the ground shortly after takeoff.

09 – Canada recorded its first COVID-19 death. B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry confirmed a man in his 80s with pre-existing conditions died at the Lynn Valley care centre in North Vancouver.

09 – The federal government introduced legislation to impose a blanket ban on causing a child to undergo therapy aimed at altering their sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill would also make it a criminal offence to cause an adult to undergo so-called “conversion therapy” against their will.

10 – Air Canada suspended flights to and from Italy, saying affected customers would be notified and offered a full refund. 

10 – Some of the 237 Canadians from a cruise ship with a cluster of coronavirus cases arrived back in Canada on a flight chartered by Ottawa. They landed at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, in Ontario, where they will spend two weeks in quarantine.

11 – Joe Biden had another big night in the Democratic presidential primary, capturing four more states, including Michigan.

11 – Air Canada cancelled an order for 11 Boeing 737 Max jets, but said it is still fully committed to the plane that has been grounded worldwide for a year following two crashes.

11 – A scathing report into the troubled Muskrat Falls hydro project said past provincial governments failed to protect the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador.

11 – The World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for countries to take urgent and aggressive action, stating the agency has rung the alarm bell loud and clear.

11 – Academy Award winner Tom Hanks and actress-singer Rita Wilson isolated themselves after they both tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

11 – Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison for raping an aspiring actress in 2013 and sexually assaulting a TV and film production assistant in 2006.

11 – Russia’s parliament gave the green light to sweeping constitutional reform that allows President Vladimir Putin to stay in power for another 12 years after his current term ends in 2024.

11 – The NBA announced the indefinite suspension of its regular season after a Utah Jazz player, Rudy Gobert, tested positive for COVID-19. The world figure skating championships in Montreal were also cancelled.

12 – Travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 outbreak prompted the European Space Agency and Russia’s Roscosmos to postpone a planned joint mission to Mars until 2022. The ExoMars mission to put a rover on Mars was due to launch this year.

12 – Manitoba and Saskatchewan reported their first presumptive or confirmed cases of COVID-19. Quebec Premier Francois Legault announced it was time for his province to go into emergency mode to limit the spread of the virus.

12 – The NHL announced the indefinite suspension of its 2019-20 season. The National Lacrosse League made a similar announcement. The CFL cancelled its regional and national combines and the ATP called off all men’s professional tennis tournaments for six weeks. Major League Baseball announced it was suspending its season.

12 – Canada’s biggest celebration of homegrown music, the Juno Awards, was cancelled just a few hours before the show was set to kick off in Saskatoon. The Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television also called off the Canadian Screen Awards for March 29. New York’s governor ordered all Broadway theatres to shut their doors over coronavirus concerns.

12 – The Prime Minister’s Office announced Sophie Gregoire Trudeau tested positive for COVID-19. As a precautionary measure and following the advice of doctors, Justin Trudeau entered isolation for a planned period of 14 days.

13 – Thirteen Canadians who were detained in Ethiopia while working with an Alberta-based humanitarian organization returned to Canada.

13 – A team from Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, the University of Toronto and McMaster University announced they had isolated the coronavirus, which would help with developing treatments, vaccines and tests. Quebec-based biotech firm Medicago said it has produced a viable vaccine candidate for COVID-19 that will undergo pre-clinical testing for safety.

13 – All parties in the House of Commons agreed that Parliament would break until April 20 to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

13 – The Greek Olympic committee suspended the rest of its torch relay after a large crowd gathered to watch, despite repeated requests for everyone to stay away. The Masters golf tournament and the Boston Marathon became the latest sporting events to be postponed due to the coronavirus.

13 – U.S. President Donald Trump declared a national emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, freeing up nearly US$50 billion to help states and cities. Trump said no resource would be spared, but predicted the virus would pass and the country would come out of the crisis stronger than before.

13 – Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne issued a global travel advisory for Canadians, urging people to avoid non-essential travel outside the country.

13 – The National Arts Centre in Ottawa announced that all performances and events would be cancelled through April 5. The famed Stratford Festival in southwestern Ontario also called off all performances and the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival in Toronto was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

13 – The Bank of Canada dropped its overnight rate target by half a percentage point to 0.75 per cent in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

14 – The Federal Court closed its buildings and offices to visitors in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Child care, schools, libraries, jail visits and jury trials were also shut down across the country.

14 – The government of Quebec reported a health emergency for the province. Premier Francois Legault urged everyone 70 years of age and older to stay home until further notice.

14 – A woman in her 50s became the first confirmed COVID-19 case reported in Prince Edward Island. In Newfoundland and Labrador, a woman who had recently travelled on a cruise ship was reported to be that province’s first presumptive COVID-19 case.

14 – A Canadian woman and an Italian man who had been kidnapped in December 2018 in Burkina Faso were released in good health. Quebec resident Edith Blais and Italian Luca Tacchetto — both in their 30s — had been travelling by car in the southwest of Burkina Faso when all communication with their families abruptly ended on Dec. 15, 2018.

14 – The TIFF Bell Lightbox theatre in downtown Toronto became the first major Canadian film complex to close in the midst of COVID-19. Cirque du Soleil announced it was temporarily suspending its productions in Las Vegas and around the world.

14 – Ontario’s chief medical officer of health urged long-term care facilities to bar access to all but ”essential visitors.” Dr. David Williams said the safety and well-being of vulnerable residents is a top priority.

15 – Ontario became the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak in Canada, with 101 cases. Meanwhile, three people in Nova Scotia were reported to be the province’s first COVID-19 cases. Alberta ordered the immediate cancellation of all kindergarten to Grade 12 classes and closed all daycares. Spain announced a lockdown of its 46 million people.

15 – Canada’s top public health officer said there should be no gatherings of 250 people or more. Dr. Theresa Tam also said all travel should be cancelled unless it’s absolutely essential, calling the situation “serious.”

15 – The U.S. Federal Reserve slashed its benchmark interest rate by a full percentage point to nearly zero in a bid to offset the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

15 – The Republic of Congo, home to the World Health Organization’s regional Africa headquarters, reported its first case of the novel coronavirus.

15 – The Vatican announced Pope Francis would not lead any public celebrations for Easter due to the coronavirus.

16 – Lt.-Gen. Mike Rouleau was named the military’s second-in-command, becoming the sixth officer to hold that post in just four years after a surprise announcement by Lt.-Gen. Jean-Marc Lanthier that he would be stepping down this summer.

16 – With a few exceptions, Canada announced it would close its borders to all but Canadian citizens and permanent residents. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the restrictions would not apply to Americans because the two countries are so closely intertwined.

16 – Major League Baseball pushed back opening day until mid-May at the earliest.

16 – Nunavut said schools and daycares were to be closed in the territory to limit the potential spread of COVID-19. The Northwest Territories suspended its sitting of the legislature.

16 – Cineplex said it would close its 165 theatres across the country until at least April 2. The company represents about 75 per cent of the Canadian film entertainment market. It had been reluctant to close down its operations, choosing instead to sell fewer tickets at each screening and clean surfaces more frequently.

16 – Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the government has recommended that people avoid gatherings of over 50 people, a change from gatherings of 250 people recommended just days earlier.

16 – WestJet announced the suspension of all commercial operations for international flights for a 30-day period. The company said it would be operating rescue and repatriation flights in partnership with the Canadian government.

17 – Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency, ordering the closure of bars, restaurants, theatres and libraries. Alberta and British Columbia made similar declarations, while the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs declared a state of emergency for 62 First Nations, closing reserve borders to non-essential travel. 

17 – Health officials confirmed Ontario’s first death in a patient with COVID-19. The 77-year-old man in the Muskoka region was a close contact of another positive case and officials said the virus was discovered after his death.

17 – The Canadian Army cancelled its largest annual training event to protect the force from COVID-19 and ensure it is ready to respond should it be called upon. Exercise Maple Resolve is held each May at Canadian Forces Base Wainwright in Alberta, and involves thousands of soldiers from Canada and allied nations.

17 – America’s longest continuously held sporting event, the Kentucky Derby, was postponed. The CEO of Churchill Downs said it would be the first time the Derby wouldn’t be held on its traditional first Saturday in May since 1945.

17 – Tom Brady announced he would leave the New England Patriots, becoming a free agent for the first time in his career.

18 – Canada’s six big banks announced they would let customers defer mortgage payments for up to six months.

18 – U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed that the border between the two countries would be shuttered to all but essential traffic in both directions in an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19.

18 – The federal government announced an $82-billion relief package to help support workers, businesses and the entire Canadian economy. The government also announced it was pausing Canada Student Loan payments for six months.

18 – B.C. and Saskatchewan became the latest provinces to declare states of emergency in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

18 – An elderly woman from the Lanaudiere region, northeast of Montreal, became Quebec’s first reported death from COVID-19.

18 – Norwegian musher Thomas Waerner easily won the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. His closest competitor was three-time champion Mitch Seavey, who was about five hours behind.

18 – Several colleges and universities in Ontario either asked or ordered students to move out of their dorms to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

18 – Porter Airlines announced it would suspend all flights, giving passengers two days’ notice to return home.

18 – Despite not having any COVID-19 cases, Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Yukon announced they were declaring public health emergencies to allow their governments to respond quickly should cases surface.

19 – New Brunswick declared a state of emergency.

19 – A 60-year-old man from Alberta became the first recorded death in the province from COVID-19. The province’s chief medical officer said the man had underlying health conditions and appeared to have contracted the virus in the community, not through travel.

19 – China exonerated the doctor who was reprimanded for warning about the coronavirus outbreak and later died of the disease. An official media report said police in Wuhan revoked the admonishment of 34-year-old Dr. Li Wenliang and issued a “solemn apology” to his family.

19 – The Academy of Country Music postponed its awards show because of COVID-19.

19 – Italy surpassed China as the country with the most coronavirus-related deaths.

19 – The Queen left London for Windsor Castle a week earlier than she usually does. The 93-year-old was seen driving away from Buckingham Palace with her dogs sitting next to her.

19 – The 73rd Cannes Film Festival was postponed due to the coronavirus epidemic. Cinema’s largest annual gathering was scheduled to open May 12.

20 – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that asylum seekers crossing into Canada on foot from the U.S. would be turned back as part of the border shutdown between the two countries. Trudeau said the move to turn them away was a temporary, exceptional measure to protect Canadian citizens.

20 – Ontario reached a tentative pact with its largest teachers union, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, following a highly contentious round of bargaining.

20 – The worldwide death toll from COVID-19 crested the 10,000 mark.

20 – Officials announced the Scripps National Spelling Bee, scheduled to start May 24, may not be held at all this year.

20 – Quarterback Tom Brady signed a two-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 42-year-old six-time Super Bowl champion said he was embarking on a “new football journey” after 20 years with the New England Patriots.

20 – With most of Air Canada’s fleet grounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Montreal-based company moved to lay off more than 5,000  unionized flight attendants.

20 – Actor-singer Kenny Rogers — best known for the song “The Gambler” — died at the age of 81. A representative said Rogers died of natural causes at home in Georgia.

21 – Canada and the United States closed their shared border to all non-essential travel.

21 – Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan officials announced citizens would be issued fines or arrested if they ignore the orders to self-isolate or practice social distancing.

21 – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced restricted non-essential travel with Canada’s northern territories. Trudeau also announced enhanced help for Canadians abroad to get flights home.

22 – Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil declared a state of emergency.

22 – Joyce Milgaard, who spent decades fighting for the exoneration of her wrongfully convicted son, David Milgaard, died at the age of 89.

22 – The Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee said they wouldn’t send their teams to Japan to participate in the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo this summer. The two committees said unless the Games were pushed back a year, Canada would not participate.

23 – The federal government rolled out a $30-million ad campaign focused on social distancing and good personal hygiene. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also announced that Canada is spending $192 million on developing and producing vaccines for the novel coronavirus.

23 – New guidelines from Heart and Stroke Foundation said those with no history of stroke, heart or vascular disease should not be taking Aspirin or similar brands as a preventative measure — a major shift from decades-old recommendations. It is still “strongly recommended” that anyone with a history of stroke, or heart or vascular disease continue to take a low daily dose of ASA to prevent another event, if prescribed by their doctor.

23 – Transat said it had temporarily laid off about 3,600 staff, including all flight crew personnel — about 70 per cent of its workforce in Canada.

23 – Under mounting pressure from several countries, broadcasters and sports federations, the International Olympic Committee said it would take four weeks to consider postponing the 2020 Tokyo Games.

23 – The founder of Shaw Communications died at 85 years old. The company said JR Shaw passed away peacefully. Shaw stepped down as CEO in 1988 when his eldest son, Jim, took over.

23 – Canada’s top public health official issued a warning against the use of untested drugs to treat COVID-19 — specifically the anti-malaria medication chloroquine. U.S. President Donald Trump caused a stir when he touted it as a possible treatment.

23 – The City of Toronto declared its own state of emergency as some people continued to ignore stern warnings from health authorities.

24 – The 2020 Summer Olympics were officially postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach agreed to the delay of about one year.

24 – The House of Commons unanimously passed a vote on the emergency legislation to provide billions in financial aid to help Canadians weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

24 – The Assembly of First Nations declared a COVID-19 state of emergency and urged governments to give special consideration to remote fly-in communities. Indigenous health managers noted it’s hard to talk about the importance of washing your hands when tap water isn’t drinkable, and that it’s impossible to self-isolate in overcrowded homes.

24 – Canada’s chief medical health officer said the ratio of travel-related to community transmission of COVID-19 is about equal, representing a fundamental shift in the spread of the virus in Canada.

24 – The Senate passed an emergency federal bill to inject billions of dollars of aid into the Canadian economy.

25 – Ottawa announced new federal restrictions on travellers who fail to self-isolate for 14 days after crossing the border into Canada. The restrictions stated that violators face fines of up to $750,000 and six months in jail.

25 – Prince Charles tested positive for COVID-19. The prince’s Clarence House office said the 71-year-old heir to the throne showed mild symptoms and was self-isolating at a royal estate in Scotland. His wife Camilla tested negative.

25 – More than 800 Canadians returned home on Air Canada flights from Morocco, Spain and Ecuador. Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said the government worked to repatriate as many Canadians as possible, but some will remain outside the country for an indeterminate amount of time.

25 – Justin Trudeau said his wife, Sophie, had recovered from COVID-19 after contracting the virus on a trip to the U.K. Trudeau said he and his children were still symptom-free.

25 – Canada started enforcing the Quarantine Act, requiring all international arrivals to self-isolate for at least 14 days. Violators could face fines of up to $1 million or three years in prison.

26 – The leaders of the world’s 20 major industrialized nations said they would collectively inject more than $4.8 trillion into the global economy to help it deal with the financial fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. The G20 leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, held an emergency virtual summit.

26 – Organizers said the Tony Awards, celebrating the best of Broadway, would not go on as scheduled in early June.

26 – The global total of COVID-19 cases rose above 500,000, as American deaths from the outbreak topped 1,000.

26 – The federal Conservatives announced the suspension of their leadership race due to COVID-19.

27 – The Bank of Canada made an unscheduled rate cut to its key interest target in a bid to provide support for the Canadian financial system and the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

27 – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tested positive for the new coronavirus. The 55-year-old was tested for COVID-19 after showing mild symptoms including a fever and persistent cough.

27 – As part of a package of measures aimed at helping small businesses survive the financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government said it would cover up to 75 per cent of salaries to prevent layoffs.

28 – Yukon declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

28 – Sophie Gregoire Trudeau announced she had recovered from COVID-19. In a Facebook post, the prime minister’s wife said she was feeling much better and had been given the all-clear from her doctor and Ottawa Public Health.

29 – For the first time since the Second World War, Britain placed all parts of the country on an emergency footing. Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick called it “an unprecedented step in peacetime.”

30 – Organizers said the Tokyo Olympics would open exactly one year after the games were due to start. The opening ceremony will take place July 23, 2021. The Paralympics were rescheduled to Aug. 24 through Sept. 5.

30 – A First Nation in Ontario reported its first confirmed cases of COVID-19. Elected chief Mark Hill said checkpoints would be set up at the Six Nations of The Grand River’s boundaries to restrict the flow of people in and out of the territory.

30 – Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador recorded their first deaths caused by COVID-19. The Manitoba government announced the closure of all non-essential businesses.

30 – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced funding for people out of work because of the coronavirus pandemic. Those eligible will get 75 per cent of their pay with a cap of $847 a week.

31 – Prince Harry and his wife Meghan officially stepped away from their roles as senior members of the Royal Family.

31 – The Manitoba government closed elementary, junior high and high schools indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Education minister Kelvin Goertzen said schools would be closed for the remainder of the school year unless health officials said otherwise.

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

The Canadian Press