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B.C. infection rate among lowest on continent: study – Times Colonist



A new serology survey that shows less than one per cent of the population was infected with COVID-19 in the first wave of the pandemic is a reason to celebrate the province’s gains, but not to become complacent, says the lead researcher.

B.C. has among the lowest per capita case and death rates in North America, said Danuta M. Skowronski of the B.C. Centre of Disease Control.

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Fewer than one in 100 residents in the Lower Mainland were infected during the first wave of the virus, demonstrating that mitigation measures were very effective, she said.

Provincewide, community infection rates were even lower.

“We effectively suppressed the community transmission of this virus in our community,” said Skowronski, who added: “We cannot assume that we’re in the all-clear, because it also means that there is still substantial residual susceptibility in the population.”

The study shows that actual infection rates are about eight times higher than reported cases — “which gives us around 16,000, 17,000 people who may have been infected over the period of the last six months,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer.

Henry has long said there was more infection in the community than the numbers testing positive would indicate.

The paper by researchers at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, University of B.C., LifeLabs (the only outpatient community-based lab serving the Lower Mainland) and public-health scientists was posted Tuesday in the online publication medRxiv.

It has yet to be certified by peer review.

The data were gathered anonymously from leftover blood drawn from individuals at diagnostic clinics in the Lower Mainland. The subjects were males and females of different ages, including children.

The blood samples of more than 1,700 people — about 100 people in every 10-year life span — allowed researchers to get a quick and comprehensive snapshot of infection rates in the community, said Skowronski.

The samples were taken over two periods, March 5-13 and May 15-27. The serology test looks for antibodies that take about four to six weeks to develop. May was chosen because it was at least a month after the peak of infections.

The study does not provide insight into whether those who developed antibodies for COVID-19 are now immune to the virus and if so, for how long.

Henry said the study was not designed to research immunity, but public-health experts believe having been infected “probably provides some protection,” so someone exposed a second time might not get it again, or might experience a milder form.

“But we don’t yet know that.”

Based on modelling studies around the world, at least 60 per cent of the population needs to have immunity to protect the rest.

Similar serology studies in Spain showed transmission of about five per cent, while in New York state it was seven per cent.

“So, even though they had that tremendous wave and they had a lot of transmission and a lot of illness and, tragically, a lot of people who died, it’s only a very small proportion of the overall community who was sick from the virus,” said Henry. “So nobody in the world has reached that point of herd immunity.

“What we need to get us to that level is an effective vaccine.”

The study is the first in Canada to report infection rates based on the presence of antibodies — produced to resist the virus — in blood samples. The test protocols were in place from similar testing by the B.C. CDC in 2009 for the influenza H1N1 pandemic.

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More than 100 pregnant Manitobans have contracted COVID-19 – CTV News Winnipeg



More than 100 pregnant Manitobans have tested positive for COVID-19, according to new numbers from the Manitoba government.

In the province’s latest surveillance report, which covers Nov. 8 to 14, it says 102 pregnant people have contracted the disease, which is 19 more pregnant cases than the week before.

The surveillance data, which monitors the intensity, geographic spread, characteristics and transmission of COVID-19 in the province, also shows that the number of outbreaks increased from 75 to 93 compared to the week prior. Of these 18 new outbreaks, 15 were in long-term care facilities.

One statistic that did not increase in this week’s report, but in fact decreased, was the number of healthcare workers who have tested positive for the disease.

Last week, the province reported a total of 403 healthcare workers contracted COVID-19, but this week is saying it is 402, as it removed a nurse/licensed practical nurse from the numbers. A total of 395 of the healthcare workers have recovered from COVID-19. 

Between Nov. 8 and Nov. 14, Manitoba reported 2,841 new cases of COVID-19, which is an increase of 785 cases from the week before.

Though the volume of testing decreased to 3,018 people per day, the test positivity rate saw a sharp increase from 9.3 per cent to 12.9 per cent.

Of the 2,841 new cases, 60 per cent were from Winnipeg Regional Health and 24 per cent were from the Southern Health – Santé Sud Regional Health Authority. The Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority reported six per cent of the cases, as did Northern Health Region, with Prairie Mountain Health accounting for four per cent of the cases.

Since March, 52 per cent of Manitoba’s cases were contracted through close contact to other cases, and 2.5 per cent were from travel. For 22.9 per cent of cases the source is unknown, and for 22.6 the province is still investigating.

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1/3 of Canadians report gaining weight during coronavirus: poll – Global News



A new poll suggests many Canadians are gaining weight because they’re eating more and exercising less during COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly one-third of respondents in the survey conducted by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies said they have put on weight since March, compared to 15 per cent who said they lost weight over that time.

READ MORE: 25% of Canadians say their mental health is worse than in 1st coronavirus wave, poll says

As well, about one-third of respondents said they’re exercising less, while 16 per cent said they’re working out more since the first wave of the pandemic landed in Canada in the spring.

Jack Jedwab, president of the Association for Canadian Studies, suggested that one reason may be a rush for comfort food to deal with pandemic-related anxieties.

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Respondents in the survey who said they were “very afraid” of COVID-19 were more likely to report gaining weight, eating more and exercising less.

“The more anxiety you have, the more likely it is that you know you’re eating more,” Jedwab said.

“People who are least anxious about COVID (are) the ones that are not eating more than usual and are not gaining weight.”

The online survey of 1,516 Canadians was conducted Oct. 29-31 and cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.

Click to play video 'UBC study reveals new impact of self-isolation and quarantine on mental health'

UBC study reveals new impact of self-isolation and quarantine on mental health

UBC study reveals new impact of self-isolation and quarantine on mental health

Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an associate professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa, said there are plausible reasons to connect weight gain or loss with the pandemic, but he hadn’t seen any studies to convince him that’s the case.

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Some people are “not reliant on restaurants constantly” and “cooking more frequently in their homes,” which Freedhoff said may be leading to weight loss or better dietary choices. Others are eating more, he said, relying on comfort food “because they’re anxious as a consequence of the pandemic, or the tragedies that have gone on in their lives.”

Jedwab said the country needs to also be mindful of mental health issues that can affect the physical health of Canadians.

“With the winter coming, it’ll be even more challenging, in some parts of the country, to maintain a healthy lifestyle in terms of walking, in terms of doing basic things that will help us address our anxieties,” he said, pointing to lack of access for some to gyms subject to local lockdowns.

Read more:
‘We’re at a breaking point’: Addressing mental health during COVID-19

Some of those exercise classes have gone online. Gabriel Shaw, a kinesiologist from Victoria, B.C. said he has offered virtual classes to give his clients a chance to be physically active.

Shaw said the classes don’t provide people with a sense of community like in-person classes, which he said is important for some people to exercise consistently.

“The best bet for people is to find a way they can enjoy it. That might be going out for a social distance walk or hike or run or bike with a friend,” Shaw said. “That might be finding a Zoom thing that you can get on like dancing or even other activities where you have friends.”

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Shaw said people should also try learning a new skill like dancing, yoga, rock climbing, or take up running to keep things fresh and enjoyable, which is key to exercising long and well.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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COVID-19 case investigations continue to lag days behind case identification in Manitoba –



COVID-19 case investigations in Winnipeg are lagging days behind positive test results, contrary to the premier’s claim Manitoba has no more contact-tracing delays.

On Friday, Premier Brian Pallister said tracing delays are a thing of the past in this province.

“There’s zero backlogs on tracking and tracing right now in our province,” Pallister said during an interview that aired on Rosemary Barton Live on Sunday.

Backlogs, however, remain. CBC News has learned public health nurses in the Winnipeg health region started investigating COVID-19 cases on Monday that were identified as positive on Nov. 19 — a delay of four days — and are still working overtime to catch up on caseloads.

This four-day delay represents a vast improvement from October, when COVID-19 patients reported contact-tracing investigations lagging behind positive test results by as much as a week.

It nonetheless remains well behind the 24-hour timeframe epidemiologists have recommended for starting contact-tracing investigations in order to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“A twenty-four hour delay in getting a hold of somebody in a shelter, that’s a disaster,” said a public health nurse who CBC News is not identifying due to fears of repercussions.

WATCH | Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister insists his province’s restrictions are the most stringent in the country:

Delays are particularly important to avoid in Winnipeg, where people living in homeless shelters are disproportionately affected by the pandemic, the nurse said.

“When you get somebody on the phone that’s living on the street and you’re telling them they have COVID, it’s a lot different than calling somebody who’s living at home and have three people in their house.”

Darlene Jackson, president of the Manitoba Nurses Union, said the four-day lag reported by the public health nurse is in line with what she’s hearing from her members. 

“We’re hearing that there is a lag — anywhere from a couple of days, to five days,” said Jackson, adding some public health nurses are required to work evenings and weekends in order to catch up on caseloads.

“We know that public health nurses are still working excessive amounts of overtime. They’re being mandated frequently. They’re working through weekends. They’re not allowed to go home until they finish contact tracing on cases. It’s been it’s been months like this, with no end in sight,” Jackson said.

“I just find it very frustrating. We’re already eight months into a pandemic and it just feels like we’re just trying to get caught up now.”

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, made it clear on Monday the lag involves the time between the identification of a positive case in a laboratory and the handover of information about that case to public health.

“Almost all cases are reached within 24 hours of the report being reported to public health,” said Roussin, adding some case investigations do not begin until the next day after that.

Province adding contact tracers

Case investigations are one aspect of contact-tracing in Manitoba. The province employs an average of 170 people per day — public health nurses and contractors with the Canadian Red Cross — to conduct these investigations.

The province also pays for an average of 80 people a day to notify contacts of known COVID-19 cases. Statistics Canada has been enlisted for this task.

The third aspect of contact tracing involves follow-up calls to infected patients. These are conducted by 43 staff and volunteers at the COVID-19 Contact Centre, jointly run out of the Deer Lodge Centre by Shared Health and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba chief public health officer, said most case investigations begin within a day of public health learning about them. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

On Monday, Health Minister Cameron Friesen promised to bolster these 203 positions with 143 more workers.

The public health nurse who spoke to CBC News said that won’t help unless the reinforcements have specialized training.

“We need people who have the knowledge and the education to do proper contact-case investigations. It’s more than just calling people and telling them they have COVID,” the nurse said.

“We’re doing health assessments and directing people where to go if their symptoms exacerbate. We’re dealing with people who are structurally disadvantaged, who don’t have home. I mean, those are things that public health nurses know, not somebody answering the phone at a call centre.”

Contact tracers not allowed to work from home

The Manitoba Nurses Union also chastised the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority for not allowing COVID-19 case investigators to work from home.

Public health nurses are being subjected to unnecessary risks at the office — while some are unable to work because they are sick, isolating or caring for children, the union said.

“I do not understand why public health nurses are not allowed to access their files that they need at home and to work from home,” Jackson said.

Roussin, who has urged all employers to allow employees to work remotely, encouraged the WRHA to consider doing the same.

“If you can make it feasible, if you can get the work done by being at home, then I would encourage all employers to to look at that,” he said.

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