Health officials in B.C. are reporting 223 new COVID-19 cases today.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says there are 2,009 active cases in the province, with 4,637 people under active public health monitoring.
A total of 10,247 people who tested positive have now recovered.
Currently, 75 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, 24 of whom are in intensive care. The remaining people with COVID-19 are recovering at home in self-isolation.
Vancouver Island only had one new confirmed case.
There have been two new health-care facility outbreaks at Laurel Place and Fair Haven Homes Burnaby Lodge. In total, 16 long-term care or assisted-living facilities and two acute-care facilities have active outbreaks.
The outbreaks at PICS Assisted Living, Good Samaritan Delta View Care Centre, Chartwell Carrington House Retirement Residence and Thornebridge Gardens Retirement Residence have been declared over.
There have also been two new community outbreaks at Coast Spas Manufacturing and Pace Processing.
“In recent days, we have seen a number of new outbreaks of COVID-19 in the community and in long-term care facilities,” Henry says. “Contact-tracing teams throughout our province are working around the clock to stop further spread, but it requires all of us to do our part to be successful in these efforts.”
This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.
Canadians considering gathering with loved ones over the holidays this year need to come to terms with some harsh realities.
But COVID-19 is insidious, an unwanted guest that can slip in unnoticed and wreak havoc despite our best efforts to control it.
“We have to ask ourselves honestly, must we socialize? And the answer is probably no,” said Raywat Deonandan, a global health epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Ottawa.
“There is no way to eliminate risk except not to do it in the first place.”
But we’ve learned a lot more about how COVID-19 spreads since it first emerged at the beginning of this year, which can help inform us on where we’re most at risk.
Confusion over holiday guidelines
There’s understandably a lot of confusion about what sorts of holiday gathering might be reasonable to consider this year, especially since depending on where you live in this country the rules and recommendations differ.
Certain provinces, like Ontario, recommend skipping extended family gatherings altogether and taking precautions like self-isolating for 10 to 14 days for those travelling home from away, including colleges and universities.
While others, like Quebec, have put a lot of faith in their population by allowing gatherings of up to 10 people for four days over the holidays after a seven day period of self-imposed quarantine.
But Deonandan says we can’t necessarily rely on people to completely self-isolate on their own — that requires not leaving home for groceries, essential items or even to walk the dog.
WATCH | Dr. Theresa Tam advises no large gatherings or non-essential travel
Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, says it’s clear that Christmas this year is not going to be like other years. She recommends against any gatherings but has some advice if people choose to forgo the public health guidelines. 0:48
“You’re also going to have outliers who have infectious periods longer than two weeks,” he said.
“If enough people do this, you’re going to get a sufficient number of people who do not fall under that umbrella who are indeed infectious and who start outbreaks.”
Silent spread a ‘key driver’ of outbreaks
While we weigh whether it’s even possible to gather safely with friends and family in a pandemic, it’s important to keep in mind the unseen dangers we could be inviting in — even in parts of the country that have low rates of COVID-19.
“The problem with this virus is that it’s like many other viruses,” said Dr. Allison McGeer, a medical microbiologist and infectious disease specialist at Toronto’s Mount Sinai hospital who worked on the front lines of the SARS epidemic in 2003. “You shed virus before you get sick and some people who get infected don’t develop symptoms.”
“That’s why what has worked is everybody wearing masks and everybody maintaining social distance, because you can’t tell who the next infected person is going to be.”
McGeer says viruses like influenza, chickenpox and measles typically present symptoms in the body before people are infectious — but the virus behind COVID-19 is different.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released updated scientific guidance this week that acknowledged asymptomatic or presymptomatic individuals account for more than half of all COVID-19 transmissions.
“Silent transmission is one of the key drivers of outbreaks,” said Seyed Moghadas, a professor of applied mathematics and computational epidemiology at Toronto’s York University.
“There is an incorrect notion in the general population that if someone feels fine then they are not infected. A person can certainly be infected, infectious, and feel completely fine.”
Moghadas, the lead author of a study published in the journal PNAS on the silent spread of COVID-19 that was cited in the CDC guidelines, says this underscores how difficult the virus is to control, a challenge “magnified” in close quarters.
In Nova Scotia, which has successfully contained the spread of COVID-19 throughout the pandemic despite the bursting of the Atlantic bubble this week, catching those silent spreaders before they unknowingly infect others is key.
Dr. Lisa Barrett, an infectious disease specialist at Dalhousie University, has partnered with public health authorities in a pilot project to use rapid COVID-19 tests on people without symptoms in high-traffic areas of Halifax.
It’s only been a few days, but what they’ve found was surprising.
On the first day they tested 147 people and found one asymptomatic case, the second day they tested 604 more and found another one, and on the third day they did 804 tests and found five more.
“We recognized that there are a lot of people out there, even if they’re doing the right thing, that don’t know they’re infected, don’t know they’re infectious and could be spreading to other people,” said Barrett.
“When there’s community spread of a virus that has a long period of time when you can be infectious without symptoms, you have to test broadly in the community or you have no idea what’s going on.”
‘A negative test is not a license to socialize’
One novel approach to avoid meeting with loved ones while unknowingly infectious that has emerged is to get a COVID-19 test beforehand to pre-emptively detect it.
But the timing of that test is incredibly important and there’s a lot of room for error, so it may be a less effective strategy than it first appears.
A new study in the journal Science looked at 1,178 people infected with COVID-19 and more than 15,000 of their close contacts to determine when people were most infectious.
It found most of the transition — 87 per cent — happened in a fairly wide window of time, up to five days before or after symptoms appeared, while 53 per cent was in the pre-symptomatic phase.
“It’s possible to be early in the disease cycle such that you won’t detect any viral presence. But in two days suddenly you’re infectious and now we’re screwed,” said Deonandan, at the University of Ottawa.
“So a negative test is not a license to socialize.”
Still, Deonandan says there will be people who are going to socialize anyway, so it’s better they do so with precautions in place like testing and self-isolating than nothing — even if those precautions aren’t perfect.
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or the winter solstice, Canadians are being told to consider meeting virtually, avoid risky indoor gatherings without masks and instead find ways to connect while still physical distancing.
“I think the pitch to people is that yes, we’re used to having time off school and we’re used to seeing everybody,” said McGeer. “But this is the year to delay.”
WATCH | Tam on the holiday season and how the pandemic won’t go on forever
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam talks to The National’s Andrew Chang about the holiday season and getting to the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. 6:31
“The best advice this year is maybe not to go too far from home,” said Barrett. “Is it worth it to lose control of the virus?”
“We’re hanging on by a thread here. Please don’t let that thread break.”
To read the entire Second Opinion newsletter every Saturday morning, subscribe by clicking here.
U.S. health authorities will hold an emergency meeting next week to recommend that a coronavirus vaccine awaiting approval be given first to healthcare professionals and people in long-term care facilities.
The meeting, announced on Friday by a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) committee on immunizations, suggests that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may be close to authorizing distribution of the long-awaited medication, at least to those considered most vulnerable.
United Airlines has begun moving shipments of the vaccine, developed by Pfizer Inc, on charter flights to ensure it can be quickly distributed once it is approved, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will vote on Tuesday to recommend that the FDA allow healthcare professionals and long-term care facilities to be the first two groups to get initial vaccine supplies, a CDC spokeswoman said.
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A green light for any vaccine would come as welcome news to Americans, who political leaders have clamped under increasingly aggressive measures to curtail the spread of the virus.
1:24 Coronavirus: Joe Biden, wife Jill highlight importance of Americans staying home for Thanksgiving
Coronavirus: Joe Biden, wife Jill highlight importance of Americans staying home for Thanksgiving
Los Angeles County health officials on Friday banned all public and private gatherings for at least three weeks and urged residents to stay home as much as possible.
The county exempted religious services and protests from the order, citing constitutional protections in an apparent acknowledgment of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling this week that rejected New York state’s restrictions on churches and synagogues.
But the ruling could drive legal challenges against similar limits placed on houses of worship in other states, including California.
“It is fair to say that this Supreme Court ruling has broader implications and governors would be wise to be guided by it in any attempts to single out houses of worship for disparate treatment,” Randy Mastro, lead attorney for the Catholic Archdiocese of Brooklyn in the case, told Reuters.
Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said this week her latest COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings also applied to indoor religious services, reducing the maximum number of worshippers from 100 to 50 people.
2:44 U.S. Thanksgiving feared to become COVID-19 superspreader event
U.S. Thanksgiving feared to become COVID-19 superspreader event
‘Skip the crowds’
Americans already weary from eight months of lockdowns began the holiday season on Friday under pressure to stay home, avoid gatherings and curtail Christmas shopping.
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One day after the nation marked a low-key Thanksgiving, malls and retailers imposing strict COVID-19 rules saw fewer shoppers for the traditional Black Friday start of holiday shopping.
“Remember, skip the crowds and shop from home this Black Friday,” Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, a first-term Democrat, wrote on Twitter.
Roughly 90,000 patients were being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals on Friday, a number that has doubled in the last month to the highest since the pandemic began.
“This is the reality we face when COVID-19 is allowed to spread unchecked – ICUs at capacity, not enough health care workers available,” New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a tweet.
Grisham, a Democrat, did not say who she believed had let the virus spread unchecked. The governor has imposed a lockdown requiring all “non-essential” businesses to close and residents to stay home.
About 880 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Friday in New Mexico. A hospital in rural Curry County was the latest to reach capacity in its intensive care unit this week, according to the county’s Facebook page.
2:18 Joe Biden delivers Thanksgiving address, discourages large gatherings amid COVID-19 pandemic
Joe Biden delivers Thanksgiving address, discourages large gatherings amid COVID-19 pandemic
Some politicians and health experts feared Americans traveling for Thanksgiving could spread the contagion. Many heeded advice to stay home on Thursday but others chose to travel, saying they were willing to risk illness to see family.
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On the day before Thanksgiving, typically one of the busiest travel days of the year in the United States, more than 1.07 million people transited through U.S. airports – the most of any day since the start of the pandemic, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
More than 4 million traveled through airports from Sunday to Thursday, compared with more than 11 million for the same period last year, TSA data shows.
(Reporting by Gabriella Borter and Melissa Fares in New York, Susan Heavey, Lisa Lambert, Diane Bartz and David Shephardson in Washington, Anurag Maan in Bengaluru and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles Writing by Dan Whitcomb Editing by Rosalba O’Brien, Bill Tarrant, Robert Birsel)
This year has been proving to be a gold speculator and investor’s dream after the yellow metal rallied hard to hit historical highs thanks to a perfect storm of a global pandemic, massive government stimulus packages, weakening dollar, and a stock market bull run that had finally run out of gas. The torrid rally represented the sharpest gain the metal has mustered in more than a decade.Wall Street hedge funds have been extremely bullish on gold, with some eyeing prices of $3,000 and even $5,000 per ounce.
But now there’s growing evidence that the gold rally could be done for now, and those lofty targets will remain out of reach for gold punters.
Gold prices have pulled back 13% after touching an all-time high of $2,075 in August, as a barrage of potential Covid-19 vaccine candidates continues to give the world hope that the worst could be in the rearview mirror.
Two weeks ago, Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and BioNTech (NASDAQ:BNTX) reported that their joint mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate, BNT162b2, had demonstrated nearly 95% efficacy in preventing Covid-19 infections in ~44,000 test patients. A few days ago, the companies confirmed those numbers in their final analysis, including being 94% effective in those over 65 years old.
Related: Can Big Oil Make Carbon Capture Mainstream?The good news came with a small caveat though: Pfizer’s vaccine needs a much cooler temperature of -94 degrees Fahrenheit (-70° C) and up to -109 degrees Fahrenheit for shipment for the vaccine to remain viable, which could pose a major challenge in some locations.
So news that Moderna’s (NASDAQ:MRNA) Covid-19 vaccine candidate, mRNA-1273, has demonstrated similar efficacy as the Pfizer vaccine but remains stable at more manageable temperatures of 2° to 8°C (36° to 46°F), or roughly the same operating temperature of a standard home or medical refrigerator, for at least a month, was definitely great news.
More encouraging: Moderna has reported that its Covid-19 vaccine will cost $25 and $37 per dose depending on the amount ordered, roughly in the ballpark of a common flu shot which costs $10 and $50.
Even more encouraging news: The EU is likely to fast track approval for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, meaning they could enter mainstream distribution in its jurisdiction in a matter of weeks. Europe is experiencing the biggest second Covid-19 wave with Germany, Poland, France, and Spain having gone back to lockdown in a bid to stem the spread of the deadly virus.
Whereas the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are based on Messenger RNA technology, which is not only speedier to manufacture and develop but is also well-suited to rapid adaptation.
Unfortunately, messenger RNA, or mRNA, is also delicate, requiring careful cold storage and handling that complicate distributions.
The great news: There are several other vaccines that could be better suited for more widespread distribution.
AstraZeneca (NASDAQ:AZN) and the University of Oxford have reported that their vaccine is 62-90% effective depending on dosage, but is cheaper than the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and can also be stored at higher temperatures making it more accessible for lower income nations. The AstraZeneca candidate is an adenovirus-vector platform that gives people an inactivated virus to stimulate an immune response making it more stable than Pfizer and Moderna’s “mRNA-based” vaccines.
Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline‘s have announced that their two-dose recombinant protein vaccine can be stored between 2°C- 8°C.
Johnson & Johnson also has a Covid-19 vaccine in the pipeline, which, if successful, could be stable at refrigerated temperatures of 2°C – 8°C for at least three months and up to two years at -20 °C.
In short, there seems to be no shortage of Covid-19 vaccine candidates that are potentially even more stable than the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
Gold price to watch: $ 1,800
With the short-term gold momentum decisively skewed to the downside, Chris Vermeulen Chief Market Strategist Technical Traders has advised traders to keep an eye on the pivotal $1,800 price level.This support level could be tested before the next big upleg, but could also open the floodgates for gold to fall as low as $1,600 if it fails to hold.
With gold prices currently hovering slightly above this critical support level, the bulls will be hoping that things don’t fall apart completely.
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