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Alberta doctor calls for more restrictions, data as hospital COVID-19 outbreaks and case numbers spike – Global News

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The Rockyview General Hospital in Calgary and Lethbridge’s Chinook Regional Hospital are the latest acute care centres in the province to declare an outbreak of COVID-19, meaning nine of Alberta’s hospitals had outbreaks as of Thursday.

For Rockyview emergency room physician Dr. Joe Vipond, the news of an outbreak a this hospital was “sad” but “not surprising.”

“We have three out of the four major… adult hospitals in Calgary and all four hospitals in Edmonton having outbreaks, which is really concerning,” Vipond said Wednesday.

Read more:
Calgary doctor calls for urgency in hospital COVID-19 outbreak reports to prevent future situations

He said the problem of recurring hospital outbreaks won’t be resolved unless health officials release more data about how the virus is spreading through the facilities.

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“The more concerning question to me is: how is it getting around? How is it getting from ward to ward when we have multiple ward outbreaks? How is it getting to the patients, to the health care workers?” Vipond said.

“There’s some failure in the system that’s allowing that to happen.”

Vipond renewed calls made last month for Alberta Health to release some of the findings from its investigation into the June COVID-19 outbreak at the Misericordia Community Hospital in Edmonton.

Read more:
Alberta health officials must determine ‘largest factor’ fuelling new COVID-19 cases to slow spread: doctor

The province’s health ministry has repeatedly said it’s working on finding a way to release data in the report in a way that doesn’t compromise any sensitive information like patient names.

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On Thursday, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said that work was still ongoing, but said there was no timeline for when that information would be in doctors’ hands.

“It’s been promised to us and we still haven’t seen it,” he said. “So we still don’t really understand why these outbreaks are occurring.”

Increase in cases a further threat to province’s hospitals

After announcing roughly 800 new cases of COVID-19 in Alberta on Thursday — a technical glitch prevented Alberta Health from providing a detailed numbers update — Hinshaw said she was “very concerned about the level of hospitalizations in Edmonton and Calgary.”

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“We must protect our health system by reducing community transmission,” she said.

Read more:
Union members rally outside Alberta hospitals to support health-care workers

“The fact that we are now reporting 800 new cases is extremely concerning. It is most concerning because it means that the measures that we introduced 10 days ago — which may have helped cases plateau over the last few days — are not having enough of an effect,” Hinshaw continued.

“It means that in about seven to 10 days from now, our hospital numbers will rise further, which means that care for Albertans with other issues besides COVID-19 will be impacted.”

Hinshaw said officials will be considering implementing measures that target where transmission is happening and cases are rising, if the trend continues, so the health-care system isn’t overwhelmed.






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Every hospital in Edmonton has a COVID-19 outbreak


Every hospital in Edmonton has a COVID-19 outbreak

The doctor also said the province’s current mandatory mandatory and voluntary restrictions are “weak,” and Alberta’s community case numbers need to go down.

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“We’ve seen the voluntary restrictions do not work,” he said. “We’ve seen that with masks. We’ve seen that with (the) voluntary request for people to decrease their cohorts. So now we need some strong responses.”

“We want to be Atlantic Canada. We want to be New Zealand. We want to be Australia. It’s very sad that we’re being Manitoba and we’re being the United States. We can do better than this.”

Read more:
Thousands of Alberta Health Services jobs to be cut in effort to save $600M annually

Vipond said in light of Health Canada’s recognition in recent days of aerosol transmission of the virus, he’d like to see safety protocols for health-care workers updated, including whether all employees should wear N95 masks when dealing with patients.

Hinshaw said updates to employee protocols have been updated, including changing the policy around how patients with dementia are cared for — an update Hinshaw mentioned on Oct. 16 — and trying to limit the number of multi-bed rooms that are used to full capacity.

She said a list of updated health measures for medical staff will be made available as soon as possible.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Canada plots course to fully vaccinated return to gatherings in fall

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Canada on Friday said there would be a gradual return to a world with indoor sports and family gatherings as more people get vaccinated, but it did not go as far as the United States in telling people they could eventually ditch their masks.

Canada has administered one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to just over half its adult population, and the country may be over the worst of its current third wave of infections, Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said.

On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks outdoors and can avoid wearing them indoors in most places, guidance the agency said will allow life to begin to return to normal.

On Friday, Canada‘s public health agency offered guidelines to the 10 provinces, which are responsible for public health restrictions.

The agency says once 75% of Canadians have had a single dose and 20% are fully vaccinated, some restrictions can be relaxed to allow small, outdoor gatherings with family and friends, camping, and picnics.

Once 75% of those eligible are fully vaccinated in the fall, indoor sports and family gatherings can be allowed again.

“I think masks might be the last layer of that multi-layer protection that we’ll advise people to remove,” Tam told reporters, noting that in Canada colder temperatures meant people would start spending more time indoors in the fall.

“We are taking a bit of a different approach to the United States,” she added. While in most of Canada masks are not required outdoors, they are mandatory indoors.

Less than 4% of Canada‘s adult population has been fully vaccinated compared to more than 36% of Americans.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has promised that everyone who wants to can be fully vaccinated by September, this week spoke of a “one-dose summer” and a “two-dose fall” without explaining what that might look like.

 

(Reporting by Steve Scherer and David Ljunggren; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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Delayed 2nd Pfizer/BioNTech shot boosts antibodies in elderly; COVID-19 obesity risk higher for men

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The following is a roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

Delaying second Pfizer/BioNTech dose boosts antibodies in elderly

Delaying the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine beyond the originally recommended three-week gap used by the companies in clinical trials appears to induce a stronger antibody response in the elderly, UK researchers found. Shortly after the vaccine became available, UK health officials advised that the second dose should be given 12 weeks after the first to allow more people to get protected by a first dose early on. In a new paper seen by Reuters and expected to appear on medRxiv on Friday ahead of peer review, researchers found that among 175 people ages 80 to 99, those who got their second dose at 12 weeks had antibody responses that were 3.5 times higher than those who got it after three weeks. Antibodies are only one part of the immune system, and vaccines also generate T cells that fight infections. The peak T cell responses were higher in the group with a three-week interval between doses, and the authors cautioned against drawing conclusions on how protected individuals were based on which dosing schedule they received. (https://reut.rs/3wjPK9B)

Impact of obesity on COVID-19 risks may be greater in men

The known increased risk of severe COVID-19 and death linked to obesity may be even more pronounced for men than women, new data suggest. Researchers studied 3,530 hospitalized COVID-19 patients with an average age of 65, including 1,469 who were obese. In men, moderate obesity was associated with a significantly higher risk of developing severe disease, needing mechanical breathing assistance and dying from COVID-19. (The threshold for moderate obesity is a body mass index (BMI) of 35. In an 5-foot, five-inch tall (1.65 m) adult, that would correspond to a weight of 210 pounds (95 kg). In women, however, only a BMI of 40 or higher, indicating severe obesity, was linked with the increased risks. In a report published in European Journal of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases, the researchers note that while obesity is known to be linked with body-wide inflammation, patients’ levels of inflammatory proteins did not appear to explain the association between obesity and severe illness. For now, they conclude, “particular attention should be paid” to protecting patients with obesity from the coronavirus, “with priority to vaccination access, remote work, telemedicine, and other measures given the higher risk of adverse outcomes once they are diagnosed with COVID-19.” (https://bit.ly/3eO6GiA)

COVID-19 testing rates low among symptomatic Americans

Sick Americans appear to be passing up opportunities to get tested for coronavirus and thus are likely unknowingly spreading the infection throughout their communities, new research shows. Among 37,000 adults across the United States who participated in a smartphone app survey between March and October 2020, nearly 2,700 reported at least one episode of fever and chills. But according to a report published in JAMA Network Open, only a small fraction reported receiving a COVID-19 test result within seven days of the onset of illness. At first, as tests became more accessible, the numbers improved. In early April 2020, less than 10% of survey participants reporting illness with fever received test results within a week. By late July, that proportion had increased to 24.1%. Throughout the summer and fall, as tests became easier to find, the number of sick participants who reported getting tested remained flat. By late October, only 26% reported receiving a test result within a week of febrile illness. “It’s shocking to me that when people have a fever they’re still not getting tested,” said coauthor Dr. Mark Pletcher of the University of California, San Francisco. “Tests are easy to come by. People might have coronavirus, might be spreading it to their friends and neighbors, and they’re not getting tested.” (https://bit.ly/2QUyMzf)

Open  in an external browser for a Reuters graphic on vaccines in development.

 

(Reporting by Nancy Lapid, Alistair Smout and Ronnie Cohen; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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U.S. CDC says Fully vaccinated people can remove their masks in most places

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday advised that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks outdoors and can avoid wearing them indoors in most places, updated guidance the agency said will allow life to begin to return to normal.

The CDC, which hopes the guidance will prod more Americans to get vaccinated, also said fully immunized people will not need to physically distance in most places.

The turnaround came just 16 days since CDC issued revised guidance that left many restrictions in place for vaccinated people. The agency came under fire in March for initially discouraging immunized grandparents to fly to visit loved ones.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the new guidance was based on a sharp reduction in cases, expansion of vaccines to younger people and vaccine efficacy against coronavirus variants.

“We followed the science here,” Walensky.

President Joe Biden emerged at the White House for remarks without a mask. “I think it’s a great milestone, a great day,” he said.

“If you’re fully vaccinated and can take your mask off, you’ve earned the right to do something that Americans are known for all around the world: greeting others with a smile,” he said, flashing a brief smile himself.

Biden earlier shed his mask during a meeting with lawmakers, Republican Senator Shelly Moore Capito told reporters. Some journalists at the White House also removed their masks.

The CDC had faced criticism, even from public health officials, that it has been too cautious in its guidance. Critics have said people need to see more benefit of getting vaccinated in terms of returning to normal activities.

“In the past couple of weeks, we have seen additional data to show these vaccines work in the real world, they stand up to the variants, and vaccinated people are less likely to transmit the virus,” the agency said in a news release.

It added, “We needed to take the time to review the full body of evidence to get this right, and that’s how we came to this decision.”

‘NEED A REWARD’

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease doctor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said he supports the new guidance that many had been calling for.

“People in state health departments and infectious disease doctors have been saying this for some time because they’re so impressed with the effectiveness of the vaccine, and also, they have the feeling that people who are vaccinated need a reward,” he said.

Republican Senator Susan Collins called the guidance “overdue.”

“If people find they cannot do anything differently after a vaccine, they will not see the benefit in getting vaccinated,” she said.

The revised guidance is a major step toward returning to pre-pandemic life, but the agency still recommends vaccinated people wear masks on planes and trains, and at airports, transit hubs, mass transit and places like hospitals and doctor’s offices.

Officials in several states said they would immediately review existing mask requirements.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association said the announcement creates ambiguity because it fails to fully align with state and local orders.

“It is critical for customers to remember the CDC announcement is guidance and that many state and local jurisdictions still have mask mandates in place that retailers must follow.”

Supermarket chain Kroger Co said it would keep its mask requirements in place “at this time.”

Target Corp said it will continue requiring coronavirus safety measures in all stores, including masks and social distancing, while it reviews the guidance.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents 1.3 million retail and grocery workers, called the new guidelines “confusing,” adding it “fails to consider how it will impact essential workers who face frequent exposure to individuals who are not vaccinated and refuse to wear masks.”

The U.S. government last month extended mask requirements across transportation networks through Sept. 13. The Transportation Security Administration said it would “work closely with the CDC to evaluate the need for these directives.” Walensky said CDC will soon issued updated transit guidance.

The new guidance says vaccinated Americans can resume all travel, do not need to quarantine after international trips and do not need to be tested for COVID-19 if exposed to someone who is COVID-19 positive but asymptomatic.

However, Americans still face some international travel restrictions, including non-essential trips to Canada.

Masks became a political issue in the United States with then-President Donald Trump resisting mandating face coverings while President Joe Biden embraced masks and mandated them for transit hubs. Some U.S. states issued aggressive mask mandates while others declined or dropped them months ago.

The CDC said fully vaccinated people should still wear masks where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, and abide by rules and regulations set by local businesses and workplaces.

In late April, the CDC said fully vaccinated people can safely engage in outdoor activities like walking and hiking without masks, but recommended their continued use in public spaces where they are required.

Immune-compromised individuals should consult doctors before shedding masks, and those who are not vaccinated should continue wearing them, Walensky said.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Additional reporting by Steve Holland and Nandita Bose in Washington, Richa Naidu, Lisa P. Baertlein and Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago; Editing by Franklin Paul and Bill Berkrot)

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