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Antibody test accuracy unclear; COVID-19 risks higher for pregnant women – Financial Post



The following is a brief 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.

COVID-19 antibody tests not backed by solid data

Studies assessing the accuracy of COVID-19 antibody tests had major shortcomings, an analysis released on Thursday found, indicating that existing research does not prove the tests can confirm with certainty whether people have been infected with the novel coronavirus. Cochrane, a British-based journal that reviews research evidence, looked at 54 studies that sought to measure the reliability of the antibody blood tests. The studies were often small, did not use the most reliable methods, and their results were often incomplete, the analysis found. The analyzed studies looked at nearly 16,000 blood samples, 89% of which had a high risk of bias because patients were unlikely to match the general population. The review identified data from 25 commercial COVID-19 tests, a fraction of the roughly 300 such tests that exist. The review did not include tests offered by Roche or Abbott Laboratories, which were approved by regulators after the analysis began. (;

Pregnant women have greater risk for severe COVID-19

Pregnant women face an increased risk of severe coronavirus infections, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released on Thursday showed. Pregnant women with COVID-19 are 50% more likely to need intensive care and 70% more likely to be put on mechanical ventilators than non-pregnant women, although pregnant women did not have a higher risk of death, CDC researchers reported in the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black pregnant women appear to be disproportionately affected by the coronavirus infection during pregnancy, the study also found. Earlier in the pandemic, researchers in China and Britain reported no extra risk for pregnant women. But last month, a large study in Sweden found pregnant women infected with the virus were more than five times as likely to need intensive care and four times more likely to need invasive mechanical ventilation. The CDC study did not include data on how COVID-19 affects the outcomes of pregnancies. (;

Coronavirus traces found in Spanish sewage from March 2019

Spanish researchers have found traces of the novel coronavirus in Barcelona wastewater collected in March 2019, nine months before COVID-19 was identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan. University of Barcelona virologists led by Albert Bosch had been monitoring wastewater since April of this year. When they decided to test older samples, they said they found genetic material from the virus in one sample from March 12, 2019. The presence of the virus genome so early in Spain, if confirmed, would indicate the pathogen appeared much earlier than previously thought. In their not-yet-peer-reviewed paper posted on Friday on medRxiv, the researchers also said they found the virus in Barcelona wastewater from Jan. 15 of this year, 41 days before the first case was officially reported there. Joan Ramon Villalbi of the Spanish Society for Public Health and Sanitary Administration said it was still early to draw definitive conclusions based on these findings. “When it’s just one result, you always want more data, more studies, more samples to confirm it and rule out a laboratory error or a methodological problem,” he said. (;

Flu vaccine use in elderly may be linked to community coronavirus mortality

COVID-19 death rates may be lower in communities where large proportions of elderly residents received flu vaccines, based on data from more than 2,000 counties around the United States. Researchers found that a 10% increase in vaccination coverage among people older than 65 was associated on average with a 28% decrease in the COVID-19 death rate in a given county. It is possible that social, economic and health factors contributed to lower coronavirus mortality in counties where more seniors got flu vaccines, the researchers said. Their findings were based on data reported by counties, not by individuals. Still, the researchers said, “The significant public health implications of this possibility point to an urgent need for studying the relationship between influenza vaccination and COVID-19 mortality at the individual level, to investigate both the epidemiology and any underlying biological mechanism.” On Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said flu vaccination during the pandemic is very important to reduce the overall impact of respiratory illnesses on the population and ease burdens on the healthcare system. (

Bring sick kids for medical care during lockdown, doctors say

With lockdown orders in place, parents may hesitate to take sick children to the doctor. But research by pediatricians in Britain concluded that if medical care is delayed – particularly when a child appears seriously ill – “the unintended consequences of the lockdown will do more harm and claim more children’s lives than COVID-19.” Among nearly 2,500 pediatricians surveyed for the study published on Thursday in Archives of Disease in Childhood, one in three said they had dealt with medical emergencies in children who probably would have sought medical care before becoming so ill were it not for the pandemic. Children with diabetes were most often involved, but also those with life threatening blood infections and cancer, survey responses indicated. (

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

(Reporting by Nancy Lapid, John Miller, Caroline Humer, Emma Pinedo, Nathan Allen and Inti Landauro; Editing by Will Dunham)

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N.W.T. ends state of emergency for 1st time during COVID-19 pandemic –



The Northwest Territories government has decided it will no longer extend its state of emergency for the first time since COVID-19 emergency measures were enacted in the territory.

The territory has been under a state of emergency — one of its two emergency public health measures — due to the pandemic since March. The state of emergency gave the government extraordinary powers, including the power to enter premises without a warrant; procure food, fuel, and medical supplies; and fix prices on essential goods.

“The public was wonderful, the stores, the supply chains … they were all wonderful and we never had to enact it or utilize it,” Premier Caroline Cochrane said Tuesday.

“So if we’re not utilizing it, it makes sense now that we’re in phase two that we don’t carry that forward any longer.”

The government added that it will continue to review the situation, and if needed — like if there’s a second wave of COVID-19 and evidence of community spread — it’s prepared to bring back the state of emergency, but would be cautious about doing so.

The territory has been free of known COVID-19 cases for roughly three months but Cochrane said it took this long to lift the state of emergency because “often best decisions aren’t made quickly.”

“I know that the public is saying ‘we have no cases, we haven’t had any cases’, but watch the news,” she said, noting a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in some U.S. states. 

“We have to be very careful. It’s still going on huge in the southern jurisdictions and we don’t have the healthcare capacity to deal with a huge outbreak.”

Cochrane acknowledged concerns from people who may feel their civil liberties are being limited by the state of emergency. That’s why with the last order, she says, the government allowed people to come to the territory if they were working, looking for work, reuniting with family or obtained a special government exemption.

Public health emergency extended

Meanwhile, Health Minister Diane Thom has extended the territory’s public health emergency on the recommendation of the chief public health officer, according to a news release.

The public health emergency gives the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer the ability to create and enforce public health orders.

The release states that to this point, the territory has been “successful at managing the risk of COVID-19 using the tools available under the Public Health Act,” and so it has not had to draw on resources under the Emergency Management Act that a state of emergency would allow for.

Back in June, the territorial government extended both of its territory-wide emergency declarations for the seventh time. Both were set to expire on Wednesday.

Government spokesperson Mike Westwick said the public health emergency will expire on July 21.

The news release also reminded residents that everyone entering the N.W.T. is still required to self-isolate for 14 days in Yellowknife, Inuvik, Hay River or Fort Smith, “with few exceptions.”

“The [N.W.T. government] will continue to review its actions and arrangements for responding to the pandemic to ensure they remain effective and are aligned with the current circumstances,” the release states.

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June 27th Miracle Collects Over Two Million Pounds Of Food – windsoriteDOTca News



The June 27th Miracle food drive is being called a huge success.

Organizers have finished calculating a rough estimate of 2,020,500 lbs of food.

Right now these pallets are spanned across multiple sites including the WFCU Arena (Windsor), Westport Marina (Lasalle), Atlas Tube Centre (Lakeshore), Tecumseh Arena, Libro Centre and (Amherstburg) and in the process of being sorted and distributed to food banks.

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June Muir, President and CEO of the Windsor Essex Food Bank Association and the Unemployed Help Centre is thrilled with what the June 27th Miracle did for the community. “I want to make sure everyone knows what they did on June 27th is going to help our community in Windsor and Essex County” Muir says.  “Without that help we don’t know what we’d do because some of our fundraisers aren’t going to happen this year, so what’s happened truly is a miracle.”

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Is the coronavirus airborne? What we know about COVID-19 transmission – CNET



Aurelien Meunier/Getty
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

More than 200 scientists and experts across the globe penned an open letter on Monday to public health bodies, including the World Health Organization, arguing there’s significant evidence the coronavirus can persist in the air and spread in airborne particles from person to person. The letter, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases on Monday, advocates for “the use of preventative measures to mitigate this route of airborne transmission” and was signed by 239 researchers from 32 countries.

The existence of the open letter was first reported by The New York Times and Los Angeles Times on Saturday, describing the WHO as an organization “out of step with science” on the matter. 

But the science isnt yet settled on whether SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, spreads effectively and causes disease this way. It’s not a yes or no equation, and like many aspects of the pandemic, it’s a puzzle that remains unsolved.

“It’s possible and even likely that airborne transmission occurs for SARS-CoV-2 sometimes,” Babak Javid, an infectious diseases physician at the Tsinghua University School of Medicine, said in a statement. “It’s not at all clear how common this is.”

The WHO’s official guidance on the matter is the virus moves from person to person via “small droplets” that are expelled when a person with COVID-19 coughs, sneezes or speaks. These droplets are too heavy to travel great distances, sinking quickly to the ground. In addition, it states the virus can be picked up from surfaces. That’s why hand-washing and social distancing are important to help curb the spread.

But the signatories in the open letter argue SARS-CoV-2 lingers in the air, and this may play a role in transmission. They believe when a person with COVID-19 expels virus, the particles remain aloft and can travel great distances on air currents, particularly where ventilation is poor. “It is understood that there is not as yet universal acceptance of airborne transmission of SARS-CoV2; but in our collective assessment there is more than enough supporting evidence so that the precautionary principle should apply,” they write. 

To mitigate the risk of airborne transmission, they propose two major measures should be implemented: Better ventilation in public buildings and reducing overcrowding. It also calls for the WHO to recognize this potential route of transmission and more effectively communicate the risks associated with it. 

“We are concerned that the lack of recognition of the risk of airborne transmission of COVID-19 and the lack of clear recommendations on the control measures against the airborne virus will have significant consequences,” the researchers write. The WHO has been reticent to provide additional advice highlighting the risks, citing a lack of evidence.

Some scientists voiced concerns over the letter suggesting the concerns over airborne transmission may be overblown.

“I’m a bit shocked this came up,” says Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases researcher at the University of Toronto. “There is no new data, just a signed letter that makes headlines.”

Over the air

The debate is centered on interpretation of transmission modes, and this confusion extends to the public’s perception of how the disease spreads.

“A problem here is the potential conflict between the technical notion of airborne transmission and the perception of the general public about this term,” said Jose Vazquez-Boland, chair of infectious diseases at the University of Edinburgh.  

The academic kerfuffle essentially pits “droplets” — the heavy particles that fall to the ground within six feet — against “aerosols” — light viral particles that remain suspended in the air. The key difference is the size of the particles.

“The size of [a] droplet is going to be really important, because all effectively have mass or weigh something,” explains Bruce Thompson, a respiratory expert at Swinburne University in Australia. The bigger respiratory droplets from something like a sneeze don’t stick around in the air long; they’re airborne, but they drop to the ground quickly because of gravity. Aerosols are different.

“If it’s an aerosol, it’s potentially going to be floating around the air more,” Thompson says.

These technical distinctions can make it hard for the general public to understand what it means for a virus to be “airborne.”

“For the public, it may be difficult to differentiate between the different situations and technical definitions,” Vazquez-Boland said. 

You might immediately think just going for a jog or spending time outside could result in infection as COVID-19 particles make their way into your lungs, but it’s more likely the “airborne” route occurs in densely packed, indoors settings with poor ventilation. Whether you can be infected with SARS-CoV-2 is likely context-specific, and many factors will play a role. Some of this nuance is being lost in the academic to and fro and causing some of the public’s confusion over the spread of the disease.

“There is a bit of a false dichotomy between droplet and airborne transmission,” Bogoch said. “It’s more of a spectrum rather than silos.

“COVID-19 falls closer to the droplet end of the spectrum,” Bogoch said. 

Even if the risk is understated or under-acknowledged by the WHO, it may not have a dramatic effect on combating the spread. The organization does recommend avoiding crowded places as part of their official guidance on protecting yourself from COVID-19. It also advises those who feel sick to stay home or wear a mask when leaving the house, another factor limiting the risk of airborne transmission. 

For now, whether coronavirus is airborne, the guidance remains mostly the same. Avoid crowded indoor locations, or if you must be indoors, try to spend less time there. The virus may accumulate in poorly ventilated spaces, increasing the risk of infection. 

You should continue to maintain social distancing measures. When you’re out, put on a mask. Wash your hands. And keep listening to advice from local health authorities with the caveat that information can — and will — change based on new evidence.

WHO comments

During a press briefing on Tuesday, journalists questioned the WHO about the New York Times report and the open letter, giving the organization a chance to speak publicly on the matter. 

“We acknowledge there is emerging evidence in this field,” said Benedetta Allegranzi, a WHO technical lead in infection prevention and control. “We believe that we have to be open to this evidence and understand its implications regarding the modes of transmission.”

“As we’ve said previously, we welcome the interaction from scientists all over the world,” added Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead on the COVID-19 pandemic. Van Kerkhove noted the WHO had been working on a “brief” regarding transmission for several weeks and expects it will be available “in the coming days” outlining current evidence and guidance in the area.

“We are also looking at the role of airborne transmission in other settings where you have poor ventilation,” she noted.

Updated July 7: Added WHO briefing comments. 

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