Health officials in British Columbia and Saskatchewan are advising people to self-isolate if they’re returning from an area of Alberta where an oilsands site is suffering from a COVID-19 outbreak.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority said in a statement that it and the Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority have begun a contact tracing investigation into new cases of the novel coronavirus in the province’s north that are related to cross-boundary travel.
Dr. Nnamdi Ndubuka, medical health officer with the Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority, said some of those new cases are linked with travel from Kearl Lake, an oilsands site north of Fort McMurray.
“This is based on information we have so far — the investigation is still ongoing,” Ndubuka wrote in an email. “We are also working with community health staff to identify individuals who might have been exposed to these cases.”
The SHA said that all northern Saskatchewan residents should self-isolate for 14 days after returning from northern Alberta, and advises against all non-essential travel between northwest Saskatchewan and northern Alberta.
The Interior Health region in British Columbia also advised Saturday that “contacts or potential contacts” with the Kearl Lake site should self-isolate for 14 days after their last flights home.
“Many residents in the Interior Health region travel to work camps in Alberta for employment,” a statement on Interior Health’s website said on Saturday. “There is potential for transmission between communities and between our provinces.”
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said Friday the number of Alberta cases arising from the facility north of Fort McMurray had risen to 12.
Oilsands operators rely on workers from across the country who fly to sites and stay there for several days or weeks at a time, and the sites continue to operate amid the pandemic as an essential service.
Imperial, which owns Kearl along with ExxonMobil Canada, said as of Thursday it had two active COVID-19 cases on site, and 10 active cases away from the site.
Simon Younger, vice-president of production at Imperial, said at the time that the company had completed contact tracing for these individuals and asked other workers to self-isolate while further testing was underway.
The company said earlier that it had bolstered cleaning and sterilization practices, and that employees are being screened at flight centres, on daily bus trips and at the site, including having their temperatures monitored.
It also said it took steps to ensure social distancing at camp and on the worksite.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 18, 2020.
COVID-19 study linking hydroxychloroquine, death risk retracted from medical journal – Global News
Three of the authors of an influential article that found hydroxychloroquine increased the risk of death in COVID-19 patients retracted the study on Thursday, citing concerns about the quality of the data behind it.
The anti-malarial drug has been controversial in part due to support from U.S. President Donald Trump, as well as implications of the study published in British medical journal the Lancet last month.
The three authors said Surgisphere, the company that provided the data, would not transfer the full dataset for an independent review and that they “can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources.”
The fourth author of the study, Dr. Sapan Desai, the CEO of Surgisphere, declined to comment on the retraction.
The observational study published in the Lancet on May 22 looked at 96,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, some treated with the decades-old malaria drug. It claimed that those treated with hydroxychloroquine or the related chloroquine had higher risk of death and heart rhythm problems than patients who were not given the medicines.
WHO halts hydroxychloroquine clinical trials
Several clinical trials were put on hold after the study was published. The World Health Organization, which paused hydroxychloroquine trials after The Lancet study was released, said on Wednesday it was ready to resume trials.
Many scientists voiced concern about the study. Nearly 150 doctors signed an open letter to the Lancet last week calling the article’s conclusions into question and asking to make public the peer review comments that preceded publication.
“I did not do enough to ensure that the data source was appropriate for this use,” the study’s lead author, Harvard Medical School Professor Mandeep Mehra, said in a statement. “For that, and for all the disruptions – both directly and indirectly – I am truly sorry.”
Surgisphere was not immediately available for comment.
The Lancet in a statement said, “there are many outstanding questions about Surgisphere and the data that were allegedly included in this study.”
© 2020 Reuters
N.B. to welcome Canadians with immediate family, property in province – CBC.ca
New Brunswick plans to open its borders to Canadians who have immediate family in the province or who own property, starting June 19, provided they self-isolate for 14 days, Premier Blaine Higgs announced Thursday.
Cabinet and the all-party COVD-19 committee have also deemed attending funerals in New Brunswick essential travel, he told reporters during a news conference in Fredericton.
The decision to loosen restrictions comes the same day New Brunswick had its first COVID-19-related death and a new confirmed case — both linked to a long-term care facility in the Campbellton region, where there is an outbreak.
Daniel Ouellette, 84, who tested positive for COVID-19 at the Manoir de la Vallée in Atholville last week, died Thursday morning at the Campbellton Regional Hospital.
Four other elderly residents and four employees have also tested positive for the respiratory disease, including the latest case, a health-care worker in their 20s.
They are among a cluster of 15 active cases now in the Campbellton region, also known as Zone 5.
Higgs said he, like all New Brunswickers, received the news “with a heavy heart” and offered his condolences.
But the rest of the province will move forward with the next phase of the yellow level of the COVID-19 recovery plan tomorrow, as scheduled, he said. The Campbellton region will remain under the stricter orange phase.
“We are grieving today, but we are also moving forward today,” said Higgs, describing it as a “combination of sadness and hope.”
Officials have linked the outbreak that started May 21 to a medical professional who travelled to Quebec for personal reasons and returned to work without self-isolating for the required 14 days.
Dr. Jean Robert Ngola told Radio-Canada’s program La Matinale on Tuesday he’s not sure whether he picked up the coronavirus during the trip to Quebec or from a patient he saw in his office on May 19 who later tested positive.
Ngola, who has been suspended and is under investigation by the RCMP, said he made an overnight return trip to Quebec to pick up his four-year-old daughter because her mother had to travel to Africa for her own father’s funeral.
He drove straight there and back with no stops and had no contact with anyone, he said, and none of his family members had any COVID-19 symptoms at the time.
He did not self-isolate upon returning, he said. He went to work at the Campbellton Regional Hospital the next day.
“Maybe it was an error in judgment,” said Ngola, pointing out that workers, including nurses who live in Quebec, cross the border each day with no isolation required.
Minister defends northern border crossing
The province’s public safety minister is defending a border crossing that residents of a small village near Campbellton fear is letting in too many people from out of the province.
On Tuesday, Tide Head Mayor Randy Hunter said there were more vehicles with Quebec licence plates in the area than there should be considering COVID-19 restrictions and that the province is giving the wrong impression about how much traffic there is at the crossing.
“The premier’s reporting and the news is reporting perhaps 60 to 70 cars a day, well that is not factual,” said Hunter.
“I know people that work for public safety there and the average [number of cars] on that bridge is about 200 a day.”
The checkpoint is located on the New Brunswick side of the border, a short distance from the bridge to Matapédia, Que.
But Public Safety Minister Carl Urquhart said there was a bit missing in that interpretation.
There are about 200 vehicles making that crossing every day, but only 65 of them would be private vehicles.
“Approximately 65 [private vehicles] the other day and then 130 commercial. So you’re looking at approximately 200 all together,” said Urquhart.
Urquhart said public safety officers are the ones that determine whether someone can come into the province or not, but that commercial vehicles are checked to make sure they’re actually making deliveries.
Urquhart said he’s convinced there isn’t a security issue at the border, and while he would love to send more public safety officers up there, they’re needed elsewhere.
“If I had a lot more people I could put them all over the province,” said Urquhart.
“You have to work with all you have.”
What to do if you have symptoms
People concerned they might have COVID-19 can take a self-assessment on the government website at gnb.ca.
Public Health says symptoms shown by people with COVID-19 have included: a fever above 38 C, a new cough or worsening chronic cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache, new onset of fatigue, new onset of muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell, and difficulty breathing. In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes.
People with two of those symptoms are asked to:
Study authors retract influential Lancet hydroxychloroquine article – National Post
NEW YORK — Three of the authors of an influential article that found hydroxychloroquine increased the risk of death in COVID-19 patients retracted the study on concerns about the quality of the data in the study.
They said that Surgisphere, the company that provided the data, would not transfer the full dataset for an independent review and they “can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources.”
The study was published in British medical journal the Lancet last month. (Reporting by Michael Erman Editing by Chris Reese)
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