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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100-million-year old beetle fossil sheds light on family of ancient bugs – CNET
A beetle trapped in amber for over 100 million years is offering scientists clues to why the bioluminescent insects may have glowed way back during the Cretaceous period, about 145 to 66 million years ago.
In a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, scientists reveal that a Cretophengodes beetle found “preserved with life-like fidelity in amber” has a direct connection to its firefly cousins.
It’s been a bit of a mystery to scientists why ancient beetles could glow. But based on their distant relatives like fireflies, scientists believe the function could likely have been used as a defense against predators, as well as a way to attract mates — much like the modern-day beetle larvae in the same family have used light.
“The discovery of a new extinct Elateroid beetle family is significant,” study co-author Erik Tihelka from the School of Earth Sciences said in a statement, “because it helps shed light on the evolution of these fascinating beetles.”
Because this particular beetle fossil was well-preserved in amber, scientists were able to see the light organ on the abdomen of the male beetle. That provides proof adult Cretophengodes were able to produce light, some 100 million years ago.
The majority of light-producing beetles belong to the Elateroidea family, which has over 24,000 known species. The discovery of this beetle provides the missing fossil link between living families, and in doing so helps scientists understand how these beetles evolved and how they should be classified.
With the recent launch of Starlink, SpaceX set a record for rapid reuse – Sunday Vision
SpaceX continues to make strides as it pushes the boundaries of reusing the Falcon 9 first stage rocket.
On Wednesday morning, the company plans to launch the next batch of 60 Starlink satellites, and reuse the booster number 1051. This will in fact be the eighth flight of this Falcon 9 rocket – setting a new record for the number of uses for any single rocket core. SpaceX expects to reach 10 uses of at least one stage of the Falcon 9 later this year.
The next launch attempt is also noteworthy as it would mark a rapid turnaround for this first phase. The missile last flew on December 13, launching the Sirius XM-7 mission in geostationary transport orbit. This 38-day period will significantly eclipse the previous Falcon 9 Phase 1 transformation margin, which is 51 days. This indicates that the company’s engineers and technicians are continuing to learn best practices for recovering and refurbishing the missiles.
The Starlink mission is scheduled to launch at 8:02 AM EST (13:02 UTC) on Wednesday from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Its launch was originally delayed by 24 hours from Monday due to unfavorable weather conditions in the offshore recovery area, where Just read the instructions Will wait for the return of the first stage. Then the important company delayed an additional day, say More time was needed for “pre-launch inspections”. It is not clear if this refers to the missile or the payload.
This will be the sixteenth launch of “operational” Starlink satellites, in addition to an earlier launch of experimental satellites. This mission is already the largest satellite operator in the world, and will bring the total number of Starlink satellites launched by SpaceX to over 1,000. Some of these satellites are no longer operational, are in the process of exiting orbit, or have already done so.
In starting to build this constellation, SpaceX owns it Introducing a public beta To define the regions of North America and is expected to offer broader coverage later this year. First impressions It was generally positive.
At the same time, SpaceX is also working to address the concerns of scientists who are concerned that large constellations of satellites transmitting the Internet from space will distort the night sky and damage astronomical observations. Last year, the company started adding “masks” to reduce the reflection of its satellites. However, Recent analysis From these “DarkSats” they indicate that more effort may be required.
Weather conditions for launch on Wednesday appear favorable for the mission, both at the launch site and in the recovery area. SpaceX should start live 15 minutes before take off.
All-purpose dinosaur opening reconstructed – Science Daily
For the first time ever, a team of scientists, led by the University of Bristol, have described in detail a dinosaur’s cloacal or vent — the all-purpose opening used for defecation, urination and breeding.
Although most mammals may have different openings for these functions, most vertebrate animals possess a cloaca.
Although we know now much about dinosaurs and their appearance as feathered, scaly and horned creatures and even which colours they sported, we have not known anything about how the vent appears.
Dr Jakob Vinther from the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, along with colleagues Robert Nicholls, a palaeoartist, and Dr Diane Kelly, an expert on vertebrate penises and copulatory systems from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, have now described the first cloacal vent region from a small Labrador-sized dinosaur called Psittacosaurus, comparing it to vents across modern vertebrate animals living on land.
Dr Vinther said: “I noticed the cloaca several years ago after we had reconstructed the colour patterns of this dinosaur using a remarkable fossil on display at the Senckenberg Museum in Germany which clearly preserves its skin and colour patterns.
“It took a long while before we got around to finish it off because no one has ever cared about comparing the exterior of cloacal openings of living animals, so it was largely unchartered territory.”
Dr Kelly added: “Indeed, they are pretty non-descript. We found the vent does look different in many different groups of tetrapods, but in most cases it doesn’t tell you much about an animal’s sex.
“Those distinguishing features are tucked inside the cloaca, and unfortunately, they’re not preserved in this fossil.”
The cloaca is unique in its appearance but exhibits features reminiscent to living crocodylians such as alligators and crocodiles, which are the closest living relatives to dinosaurs and other birds.
The researchers note that the outer margins of the cloaca are highly pigmented with melanin. They argue that this pigmentation provided the vent with a function in display and signalling, similar to living baboons and some breeding salamanders.
The authors also speculate that the large, pigmented lobes on either side of the opening could have harboured musky scent glands, as seen in living crocodylians.
Birds are one the few vertebrate groups that occasionally exhibit visual signalling with the cloaca, which the scientists now can extend back to the Mesozoic dinosaur ancestors.
Robert Nicholls said: “As a palaeoartist, it has been absolutely amazing to have an opportunity to reconstruct one of the last remaining features we didn’t know anything about in dinosaurs.
“Knowing that at least some dinosaurs were signalling to each other gives palaeoartists exciting freedom to speculate on a whole variety of now plausible interactions during dinosaur courtship. It is a game changer!”
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