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1st U.S. coronavirus death occurred weeks earlier than thought in California –



Health officials say two people died with the coronavirus in California weeks before the first reported U.S. death from COVID-19.

Santa Clara County officials said Tuesday the people died at home Feb. 6 and Feb. 17. Before this, the first U.S. death from the virus had been reported on Feb. 29 in Kirkland, Wash.

Officials in Santa Clara said they received confirmation Tuesday that tissue samples sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tested positive for the virus

“Today, the medical examiner-coroner received confirmation from the CDC that tissue samples from both cases are positive for SARS-CoV-2 [the virus that causes COVID-19],” the Santa Clara County medical examiner-coroner said in a statement.

The announcement came after California Gov. Gavin Newsom promised a “deep dive” update Wednesday of the state’s ability to test for the coronavirus and to track and isolate people who have it, one of the six indicators he says is key to lifting a “stay-at-home” order that has slowed the spread of the disease while forcing millions of people to file for unemployment benefits.

“This will go to the obvious questions and queries that all of us are asking: When? … When do you see a little bit of a release in the valve so that we can let out a little of this pressure,” Newsom said Tuesday, teasing what he said will be the first of regular weekly updates on the state’s progress toward reopening.

Newsom said the state is testing an average of 14,500 people per day, up from just 2,000 tests per day at the beginning of April. Still, in a state of nearly 40 million people, that’s not enough for public health officials to know for sure the reach of the highly contagious virus that is still causing outbreaks across the state in nursing homes and homeless shelters.

Newsom said he wants the state to test at least 25,000 people per day by the end of April.

Over the weekend, the California Department of Public Health issued new testing guidance that, for the first time, recommends testing for people in high-risk settings even if they do not have symptoms. The new advice is aimed at hospitals, jails and homeless shelters — three places where physical distancing is difficult.

WATCH | April 16: Coronavirus cases in Calif., but no ‘surge’ yet:

Officials in California believe the COVID-19 curve is flattening in their state and they’re crediting early physical distancing measures, but the mayor of Los Angeles is also telling residents to expect concerts and events to be on hold for some time to ward off a “second wave” of the virus. 2:07

California has more than 35,600 confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,300 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Over the seven-day period ending on Sunday night, the number of deaths in California nearly doubled, and the number of new cases increased by nearly 50 per cent, state data showed.

There have been more than 45,000 deaths in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

Clerk Erika Patronas, left, officiates the wedding ceremony of Natasha and Michael Davis at the Honda Center parking lot on Tuesday in Anaheim, Calif. It is one of a number of government functions occurring with social distancing techniques, which private businesses will have to grapple with at some point. (Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images)

California has been under a mandatory, statewide stay-at-home order for more than a month. Last week, Newsom said he won’t consider loosening that order until hospitalizations, particularly those in intensive care units, flatten and start to decline for at least two weeks. Tuesday, Newsom announced intensive care hospitalizations rose 3.8 per cent.

Other indicators Newsom said he is monitoring include whether the state has adequate protective gear for health-care workers, better treatment for the disease and expanded testing.

Some businesses itching to restart

Some local governments are already loosening their stay-at-home orders. Officials in Riverside County, east of Los Angeles, have allowed public and private golf courses to reopen while limiting play to foursomes, requiring physical distancing and face coverings and banning caddies, gatherings and dining in clubhouses.

At Van Buren Golf Center in Riverside, supervisor Angel Zabala said business was steady when the nine-hole course reopened Tuesday.

“A lot of people are happy,” Zabala said. “People have expressed relief as far as we’re finally open.”

Newsom said his administration is getting calls from local governments around the state with questions about how they might gradually loosen their stay-at-home orders.

“Everybody has a different timeline. So that’s the challenge,” Newsom said.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom gestures during a news conference on April 14 in Rancho Cordova. California, both the country’s most populous state and its biggest in economic terms, has not been hit as hard by the coronavirus as several other U.S. states. (Rich Pedroncelli/The Associated Press)

Newsom’s news conference, scheduled for noon Wednesday, will be watched closely by business groups who are clamouring to reopen so they can start paying their workers again.

“We just hope [Wednesday] we might hear of some additional steps from the governor that small businesses will be able to take towards opening their doors and turning their lights on,” said John Kabateck, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Restaurants were some of the first businesses ordered to close because of the virus outbreak, and they have suffered some of the heaviest job losses.

A survey of restaurant operators conducted by the National Restaurant Association found more than one million workers had either lost their jobs or been furloughed since March — at least 70 per cent of all restaurant employees that were working in February.

But like most industries, restaurant operators are torn between the desire to get back to work and not wanting to rush back too soon and risk setting off another deadly outbreak of the disease, said Jot Condie, CEO of the California Restaurant Association.

“We’re hopeful that we get this right the first time.”

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Nova Scotia court ruling orders province to better protect endangered species – CTV News



The Nova Scotia government has failed to meet “certain statutory duties” to protect species at risk says a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge, who also ordered the province’s minister of lands and forestry to fulfil his obligations under the Endangered Species Act.

In a ruling issued Friday, Justice Christa Brothers says the public record has shown a “chronic and systemic failure” to implement action required under the act.

“The minister and the department must uphold the law, all the more so when their duties are as plain as they are in this case,” Brothers wrote. “If they conduct themselves unlawfully without good reason, the court must hold them to account.”

The judge quoted from the 1971 Dr. Seuss book “The Lorax” in the preamble to her 58-page ruling: “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Brothers also cited a 2016 report by the provincial auditor general that criticized department inaction, a followup report by the department on the auditor’s recommendations in 2018, and the 2018 Lahey Report on forestry practices to back her conclusion.

The ruling is the result of a judicial review application by the Federation of Nova Scotia Naturalists, the Blomidon Naturalists Society, the Halifax Field Naturalists and wildlife biologist Bob Bancroft that was heard last fall.

The groups argued that Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin has failed to meet requirements under the act, including requirements to devise and implement recovery plans for species at risk, create recovery teams and identify core habitats.

They cited six animal and plant species as examples — the mainland moose, Canada warbler, eastern wood pewee, wood turtle, ram’s head lady’s slipper and black ash.

“Nature won,” Bancroft said of the court ruling in an interview Monday. “The question is whether they (politicians) will actually do anything or not.”

Bancroft said he believes nature has been compromised over the years on many fronts because of an “industrial agenda” within the department, particularly when it comes to forestry practices.

“At least we got to the bottom of the species at risk issue effectively in law, so I’m grateful to the lawyers and Judge Brothers for that.”

Brothers noted that in the case of the Canada warbler, which was listed as endangered in 2013, the minister had one year to appoint a recovery team under the act.

But she said a team wasn’t appointed until March 2019, shortly after the naturalist groups filed for judicial review and “some five years after the time frame contemplated by the Endangered Species Act.”

Brothers said little action also occurred when it came to the ram’s head lady’s slipper, a plant listed as endangered in 2007.

“The minister neither appointed a recovery team nor prepared a plan in 2008,” she wrote. “According to the record, a draft recovery plan was created in 2009. There is nothing in either the record or submissions to explain why this plan was never finalized.”

Brothers said a plants recovery team was appointed in May 2019 that included the lady slipper and a recovery plan is pending.

“What of the 11 years that elapsed between the designation of the species and the appointment of the team?” the ruling asks.

The judge also said lawyers for the province had cited “several somewhat vague suggestions” of limited departmental resources as justification for the delay.

“There is no apparent support in the record for the claim that institutional restraints, such as lack of resources, are at fault for this failure to observe statutory requirements,” she said.

During two days of hearings last September the lawyer for the naturalist groups, James Simpson, argued that the language in the act, with its use of the word “shall”, creates an imperative for the department to enforce the existing law.

Brothers agreed in her ruling. “The minister has no discretion to avoid this duty,” she wrote.

In an email, Lands and Forestry Department spokeswoman Lisa Jarrett said there’s no word yet on a potential appeal of the ruling.

“The province has just received the ruling and is currently reviewing it to determine next steps,” she said.

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

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Nova Scotia researchers to evaluate treatments for moderate, severe COVID-19 – The Telegram



A Nova Scotia study will look into the effectiveness of treatments for hospital patients suffering from moderate to severe COVID-19. 

The study, called CO-VIC for COVID victory, will involve about 600 patients from Nova Scotia Health Authority sites across the province, an NSHA news release said Monday. 

The study, which the authority is doing in conjunction with Dalhousie University, will test out potential therapies and their impact on COVID-19 symptoms. 

“When additional cutting-edge therapies become available, they will also be assessed,” the release said. “Personalized measurements of immune response will help develop future therapies and predict when and how severe COVID-19 happens.”

The work, which is being led by infectious disease clinician and researcher Dr. Lisa Barrett, aims to advance our understanding of how the immune system responds to COVID and help develop future treatments and second-wave vaccines.

 “We need the best knowledge of treatments and immunity, to save lives now and in the future as we continue to fight COVID-19.”

– CO-VIC study leader Dr. Lisa Barrett

CO-VIC is partially funded by the Nova Scotia COVID-19 Health Research Coalition.

 “As COVID-19 related deaths increase in the older population, in the young who didn’t ever expect to be ill, and in health care workers, our research community feels the overwhelming urgency to protect Nova Scotians with research that tests treatments, predicts disease, and promotes understanding of immunity,” Barrett said in the release.

 “We need the best knowledge of treatments and immunity, to save lives now and in the future as we continue to fight COVID-19.”

The NSHA called the treatment study an integral part of Nova Scotia’s pandemic response. Compared with other provinces, Nova Scotia’s population includes a high proportion of vulnerable people who are older, have underlying respiratory conditions or are immunosuppressed.

“These are all people at higher risk of severe COVID-19 disease and this work may aid in protecting our population.”

Most Nova Scotians will be eligible to take part at hospitals outside traditional research facilities to ensure fair access to research and potential therapies, the release said. 

“While data will be gathered from Nova Scotians, for Nova Scotians, the study is designed to mirror larger international trials to promote the comparison of global data. This will allow the research team to leverage international information so it can be applied here in Nova Scotia.”

For more information, visit the study website


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Nova Scotia reports one new case of COVID-19, bringing total to 1057 – Winnipeg Free Press



HALIFAX – Nova Scotia is reporting one new case of COVID-19 bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the province to 1,057.

Health officials say there is one long-term care home in the province with active cases of the virus.

Northwood in Halifax currently has 10 residents and four staff active cases.

Six people are currently in hospital, with two of those patients in intensive care.

To date, Nova Scotia has registered 42,426 negative test results and 60 deaths.

Officials say 984 people have now recovered from the illness.

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

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