Parbs Bains had a “sinking feeling” when she heard a single staff member tested positive for COVID-19 at her grandmother’s care home.
On Nov. 20, Little Mountain Place sent an email to families that said an employee had contracted the virus and was in isolation. A Vancouver Coastal Health medical health officer determined there was “minimal exposure risk” and was not declaring an outbreak, it said.
Instead, the health authority placed the home on “enhanced surveillance,” including heightened monitoring of residents, hypervigilance in screening visitors and stronger infection control practices. Visitors were still welcome and group activities were continuing, the email said.
Bains felt certain that this was the beginning of the end for her 89-year-old grandmother.
“I was like, ‘This is it.’ I was bawling because I just knew this was going to be it,” Bains recalled.
The facility declared an outbreak two days later.
It has become the deadliest care home outbreak in British Columbia. Ninety-nine out of 114 residents have been infected and 41 of those have died, including Bains’s grandmother. Seventy staff members also tested positive, but most have recovered.
Two families are questioning whether some deaths could have been avoided if the home had taken stronger measures immediately after the first case was identified. They also say that a hard-working but understaffed nursing team struggled to keep residents isolated and care for those who were sick as the virus spread through the facility.
During a Zoom call with her grandmother after she contracted COVID-19, Bains said another female resident entered the room and began hugging and kissing the elderly woman on the forehead. After several minutes, a nurse rushed in and ushered the other resident out, she recalled.
Bains said that while she didn’t know if the other woman had the virus, it alarmed her that residents were able to wander between rooms without staff immediately noticing.
On other occasions, Bains said her grandmother’s oxygen tubes were out of her nose and she would desperately yell for help over the Zoom call. Nurses told her that her grandmother was actually one of the fortunate ones because her room was close to their station, Bains said.
Bains said she is “so angry” at the way the outbreak was handled.
“Something had to have gone wrong at Little Mountain Place … for this to be so lethal,” she said.
Little Mountain Place referred questions to Vancouver Coastal Health, where Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Patricia Daly said the provincewide standard is that outbreaks are not automatically declared when one staff member tests positive.
The health authority determines whether the employee was in the care home during their infectious period and whether they potentially exposed other staff or residents, for example by not properly using personal protective equipment, she said.
If there is no evidence of exposures, the authority places the home on “enhanced surveillance” and monitors for other cases, she said. Some testing may be done, and group activities continue but must always follow a COVID-19 safety plan, she said.
Declaring an outbreak every time a single staff member tests positive would be too hard on residents who suffer when they are isolated and their visitors are restricted, Daly said.
“We’re trying to find that right balance.”
Vancouver Coastal Health said there was no mass testing of all residents and staff after the first case was identified. It was only on Nov. 22, after a resident tested positive and the outbreak was declared, that full-facility testing was done, it said.
Daly said broad testing is not always necessary because it depends on the risk and timing of potential exposures.
At Little Mountain Place, it became clear transmission occurred before the initial case was identified, she said.
She said during an outbreak, residents are supposed to stay in their rooms, but it is very challenging for patients with dementia to follow those rules. Staff are advised to monitor residents who wander but not to lock anyone in or restrain them,
“Keeping residents with cognitive impairment in their rooms, that has been a common challenge across all facilities in all of our outbreaks,” Daly said.
Bains and another relative, Bernadette Cheung, have demanded an investigation of the care home’s response to the virus.
Daly said she received a letter from a family member last week and has ordered Vancouver Coastal Health’s licensing team to conduct a review once the outbreak is over.
The team will examine whether the home is following regulations under the Community Care and Assisted Living Act and, if not, will require it to develop a plan to address those gaps. In very rare cases, reviews by the team have led to a change in management, Daly said.
B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie said she wants to see routine testing of all staff members at care homes. At Little Mountain Place, all staff and residents should have been tested immediately after the first employee tested positive, she said.
Screening for symptoms is inadequate because people can be asymptomatic and contagious, she noted.
“The fact that more people were infected two days later, if you had tested everybody before then, you’d have caught some people,” she said. “You would have been able to isolate them if they were residents or you would have been able to pull them from the roster if they were staff.”
Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial public health officer, said Monday the province is “looking at” regular rapid testing of staff in care homes. Ontario started doing rapid testing at long-term care facilities in November.
Cheung, whose grandmother died of COVID-19 at Little Mountain Place and has been outspoken about her concerns, said Health Minister Adrian Dix called her on Monday. She said he promised an “intense review” of the outbreak and to follow up again with her about his conversations with the care home and the health authority.
The ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Though the conversation was light on details, Cheung said she appreciated his empathy.
“That gives us hope, at least, that it is a priority for him.”
She said she has also received confirmation from Vancouver Coastal Health that her formal complaint against the care home will proceed.
Cheung has criticized the care home for not being transparent with families. She wants to know more about why the health authority determined there was “minimal risk” of exposure from the first infected staff member and declined to declare an outbreak on Nov. 20, she said.
“Essentially, we’re being kept in the dark and it raises concerns and even suspicions,” she said.
Laura Dhillon Kane, The Canadian Press
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NASA Curiosity rover celebrates 3000th day on Mars with stunning panorama of planet – Barrie 360 – Barrie 360
Sophie Lewis – CBS News
NASA’s Curiosity rover just celebrated a major milestone — 3,000 days on the surface of Mars. To mark the occasion, the space agency has released a stunning new panorama of the red planet, captured by the rover.
Curiosity landed on Mars on August 6, 2012. However, scientists track its activities in Martian days, called “sols,” which are a bit longer than Earth days, at 24 hours and 39 minutes.
The epic new panorama, released by the space agency on Tuesday, captures the view of the 96-mile-wide Gale Crater and part of Mount Sharp, its central mountain. It was taken by Curiosity’s eyes, AKA the Mast Camera.
Curiosity has been gradually climbing and exploring the 3-mile-tall Mount Sharp since 2014. Its most recent find, captured in the panorama, is a series of distinctive “bench-like rock formations,” which can form due to erosion, as well as landslides.
The mountain’s rock layers were shaped by bodies of water billions of years ago. “Curiosity’s team has seen benches before in Gale Crater, but rarely forming such a scenic grouping of steps,” NASA said.
“Our science team is excited to figure out how they formed and what they mean for the ancient environment within Gale,” said Curiosity’s project scientist, Ashwin Vasavada of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The panorama is actually a composite of 122 images taken by Curiosity on November 18. After it was taken, the rover continued to higher ground, working its way toward the next major layer, called the “sulfate-bearing unit.”
Since its mission began, Curiosity has been in search of conditions that may have once supported life, gathering rock samples along the way to analyze.
It’s had a number of major accomplishments, including finding evidence the planet once had persistent liquid water, discovering that the planet was once suitable for life and finding organic carbon molecules, the building blocks of life. It also found present and active methane in the red planet’s atmosphere, detected radiation levels that could post health risks to humans, and concluded that Mars’ atmosphere used to be much thicker than it is today.
Curiosity will soon be joined by its sibling rover, Perseverance, when it lands on the red planet in February. Perseverance is designed to bring samples from Mars back to Earth, marking the first round-trip mission to another planet.
In Photos: Hubble Captures Echoes Of Violent Supernova ‘Fireworks’ That Lit-Up Night Sky In The Third Century – Forbes
The Hubble Space Telescope has captured light from a supernova blast—an exploding star—that would have been seen from Earth 1,700 years ago.
Although there are no known records of anyone seeing it, a cosmic explosion that’s been compared to fireworks would have been visible to people in Earth’s southern hemisphere.
It’s now visible to the Hubble Space telescope as a delicate greenish-blue shell—a supernova remnant (SNR)—in a nearby galaxy to the Milky Way called the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC).
The SNR is called 1E0102.2-7219, or E0102 for short. Here’s everything you need to know about how Hubble’s spectacular images have been used to precisely date an incredible supernova explosion.
What and where is E0102?
E0102 is the leftovers of a massive explosion of a star in a nearby dwarf galaxy—the SMC.
The images from Hubble show the aftermath of a supernova—the dissipating energy has created a spectacular display of greenish-blue filaments.
The above image of part of the SMC shows that E0102 is “close”—about 50 light-years—from a massive star-forming region of glowing hydrogen emission called N 76 and Henize. You can see that as the pink-ish section in the upper-right of the image. E0102 is at the center of the image.
What do we know about the star?
Not much, though it may have been a Wolf-Rayet star—a very large and old star made from heavy elements that had probably blown-off its hydrogen before the explosion.
Astronomers think that because the colors of E0102 indicate that it was rich in oxygen rather than hydrogen and helium.
How did astronomers use Hubble’s images?
Although E0102 was previously known about, its age was unknown. Treating E0102 as forensic evidence, astronomers used Hubble’s observations of E0102 taken a decade apart to calculate the cloud’s expansion rate.
They did that by calculating how fast 22 separate oxygen-rich knots of debris in the SNR had moved in 10 years. They then traced it back to the point in space where the progenitor star must have exploded.
Why Hubble’s longevity was so crucial
“A prior study compared images taken years apart with two different cameras on Hubble, the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 and the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS),” said Danny Milisavljevic of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, one of the leaders of the research team whose paper was presented yesterday at the 237th meeting of the American Astronomical Society.
“But our study compares data taken with the same camera, the ACS, making the comparison much more robust; the knots were much easier to track using the same instrument,” he said.
“It’s a testament to the longevity of Hubble that we could do such a clean comparison of images taken 10 years apart.”
What is the SMC?
The Small Magellanic Cloud is a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way. It’s about 200,000 light-years away in the constellation Tucana. It’s really easy to see in the night skies in the southern hemisphere.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.
Creation by catastrophe – Skywatching – Castanet.net
Collision of the Galaxies sounds like a good title for a spectacular disaster movie.
Actually, a lot of things in the universe depend on things smashing together, including galaxies. The object
Arp 299 is two galaxies in collision.
The two, designated NGC 3690 and IC 694, lying about 134 million light years away from us, have been in the process of collision for around 700 million years. The Hubble Space Telescope image can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arp_299. The image is dotted with many bright, blue stars.
This is interesting because there are only two types of bright, blue star. One kind are young stars that will dim down a bit as they settle down.
The other kind are stars that collected an exceptionally large amount of hydrogen when they formed. These stars shine extremely brightly, run out of fuel soon, collapse and then explode. These explosions are called supernovae.
In either case, these blue stars cannot be very old. This relates to another interesting aspect of this pair of galaxies: the oddly large number of supernova explosions. What has produced these unusual circumstances?
If you look at a nearby spiral galaxy, such as our close neighbour, the Andromeda Galaxy, you will see the spiral arms glowing with little knots of pink, and sparkling with young stars.
If we could go a couple of million light years off into space, our galaxy, the Milky Way, would look much the same. The reason is that the spiral arms of galaxies are loaded with hydrogen gas, the primary ingredient for making stars.
If we look closer, we will see that these clouds are not uniform; some regions are much denser than others. On occasion, something triggers one of these denser regions to collapse, forming one or more stars.
These youngsters are hot and blue, and their high output of ultraviolet radiation makes the surrounding clouds glow pink. This pink, a characteristic of hydrogen, is known as hydrogen-alpha emission.
Therefore, when we look at a distant galaxy, those pink glows mean two things:
- There is hydrogen to glow
- Hot, blue stars to make it glow.
However, the jewel-box of bright, blue stars we see in the Arp 299 pair of galaxies is really unusual. Some major event caused massive collapses of hydrogen clouds, forming showers of new stars. We are pretty sure this outburst of star formation was caused by the two galaxies colliding.
Paradoxically, collisions between galaxies are not totally catastrophic; they trigger the formation of new stars and planets.
When we look at the computer simulations of collisions between galaxies (there are many on the web), they look pretty catastrophic. One can imagine stars and planets being annihilated on a huge scale.
The youtube on this link is a good example of what we believe a collision between two galaxies would look like. However, the situation is nothing like as bad as it looks.
The nearest star to us, after the Sun, lies about four light years away. This distance is fairly typical of the average distance between stars. So the chance of stars in two colliding galaxies passing close to one another is tiny. Even as fragments fly around and the galaxies combine, all the inhabitants of worlds in those galaxies will see is their equivalent of the Milky Way changing shape over millions of years.
However, for the gas clouds between the stars it’s a different matter. These will collide and collapse, forming lots of new stars.
We will get a chance to experience this first hand. The Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy are racing toward each other at 110 km/s, and will collide in about four billion years. There are computer simulations of this collision on the web.
- The only easily visible planet is Mars, which can be found high in the southwest during the evening.
- The Moon will reach First Quarter on the 20th.
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