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Calgary companies stepping up in COVID-19 fight



From versatile rapid testing to made-at-home mask production, two Calgary businesses have pivoted their business plans to provide help as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Alberta.

First Defence has been a distributor based in Calgary since 2015, and spent the early days of the pandemic importing medical supplies for organizations and companies that were beginning to adjust to the new normal.

However, CEO and founder Beau Taylor noticed there were very few companies manufacturing medical supplies in Canada.

“That’s kind of where the vision started,” Taylor said.

“How can we bring that supply chain back to Canada, where we’re employing hundreds of Canadians and bringing that money back to the Canadian economy.”

First Defence then pivoted part of its business model to start manufacturing masks, using materials sourced locally in Alberta.

According to Taylor, the masks’ filters are sourced through a company in Edmonton.

“Over the next couple of months, our plan is to bring even more of that supply: your earloops, the nose piece — those parts of the mask to be produced right here in Alberta,” Taylor said.

The company now produces 100,000 masks daily, with a goal of increasing production to half-a-million masks per day.

The effort is expected to create 150 jobs and bring more than $7 million to Alberta’s economy, Taylor said.

“That’s from the different raw materials that are being put into the mask, down to us producing them right here in Calgary,” he said.

The Calgary Chamber of Commerce said a number of businesses have been forced to pivot their business models due to disruption and uncertainty throughout the pandemic.

“Many have pivoted to offer their services online, found means to support their customers in creative ways and have demonstrated resiliency and adaptability,” the organization said in a statement.

“While we have seen businesses close, the entrepreneurs behind them have creativity, know-how and grit, and we must do whatever we can to support them.”

Calgary-based CardiAI Inc. also shifted its model to develop a rapid COVID-19 test.

The lab has been in operation for two years and develops technology to diagnose heart failure and other medical ailments.

“In the last four to five months, we were able to retool and redeploy our technology and get a COVID(-19) test out,” said CardiAI Inc. founder and cardiologist Dr. Anmol Kapoor.

According to Kapoor, the test CardiAI Inc. developed has the potential to increase Alberta Health Services’ COVID-19 testing capacity from 15,000 to 100,000 tests per day.

The company has created Covilamp (loop-mediated isothermal amplification), a COVID-19 test that uses temperature regulation to speed up the processing of a test result to about 30 minutes.

According to Kapoor, that’s because the Covilamp test process uses an “isothermal nucleic acid amplification technique,” which processes tests at a constant temperature, while the provincial test uses technology that alternates temperatures throughout the testing process.

Kapoor said the test is faster, cheaper and more accurate than the COVID-19 tests currently in use by AHS, and can detect COVID-19 in patients whether they are asymptomatic or showing symptoms.

“When we tell you your test is negative, you can have confidence that you are negative,” he said.

“But when (AHS) tells you you’re negative, you might not have confidence because their viral load is set at a higher threshold than our test, which can pick up a viral load that’s much lower.”

According to Kapoor, Covilamp can also use testing equipment already used by AHS, which wouldn’t add any cost for the province.

“It’s very cheap to deploy. They don’t need to buy expensive equipment. They have whatever they have,” he said.

“The test would work with that equipment, and help expedite testing for all of us so we could then get ahead of it.”

According to AHS, CardiAI has met with health officials and Alberta Precision Laboratories, and discussions have taken place about potentially helping with clinical verification for the testing technology.

“Like any new medical tests, Cardiai’s Covilamp system will need to receive the necessary approvals from Health Canada and accreditation from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta in order to be implemented as part of the provincial COVID-19 testing program,” AHS spokesperson James Wood said in a statement.

“Right now, we are finalizing our evaluations of the rapid testing systems that have been approved by Health Canada and provided to provinces and territories by the federal government.

“We are still determining how best to deploy them as part of the provincial COVID-19 testing program, and expect to begin piloting the use of these two different systems in the coming weeks.”

Kapoor has offered to deliver tests as a pilot project for AHS but  said he has not heard back.

As Alberta recorded another record-breaking day for new COVID-19 cases, Kapoor said the key to solving the issue of overcapacity at hospitals and in the ICU is more testing.

“We need to be doing more testing to catch more people if you want to get ahead of the virus,” he said.





Source:- Global News

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12 more lives lost to COVID-19 in B.C., as 834 new cases confirmed –



Another 12 people have died of COVID-19 in B.C. and 834 new cases have been confirmed, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Wednesday.

There are now 8,941 active cases across the province, and the number of patients in hospital has risen to another new high of 337, including 79 in critical care.

Henry acknowledged that many British Columbians are feeling worn down by the pandemic and feeling fatigued by months of restrictions on daily life.

“COVID-19 is taking a toll on all of us,” she said. “I am asking you all to continue and do a little bit more.”

To date, there have been 34,728 confirmed cases of the disease in B.C., including 469 people who have died. A total of 10,201 people are currently in isolation because of contact with known cases of the virus.

Wednesday’s update included two new community outbreaks — one at the Cove Shelter in Surrey and another at Millennium Pacific Greenhouses.

There are also three new outbreaks in the health-care system, including two hospital outbreaks announced by Island Health on Tuesday. Currently, there are 54 active outbreaks in long-term care and assisted living and seven in hospitals.

Though case numbers remain highest in B.C.’s Lower Mainland, the pandemic has caught up to the rest of the province

In the past three weeks, COVID-19 cases have stayed steady in Vancouver Coastal Health and doubled in Fraser Health  — but they’ve gone up by nearly 500 per cent in the rest of B.C.

‘I’m asking you to stay home’

As B.C.’s caseload continues to grow and hospitalizations creep ever higher, Henry said everyone needs to stay within their local communities when it comes to sports and recreational travel.

“I cannot order you not to get into a car or get onto a plane, but I’m asking you to stay home,” she said.

Henry said she knows some sports teams have ignored her order against travelling, and that ended with an old timers’ hockey team in the Interior bringing back the virus from games in Alberta, resulting in dozens of cases in their local community.

Henry declined to identify the community, but said the returned players infected family members and co-workers. She also said that the situation is not unique in B.C.

All community events and social gatherings involving anyone outside someone’s immediate household remain banned as well.

The current orders restricting social interactions, recreational activities and events are set to expire on Dec. 7. Henry said health officials will be reviewing them and looking at the evidence right up until the deadline to determine if they need to continue.

However, she signalled that new restrictions on adult indoor team sports are on the way, describing those activities as high risk.

Despite the grim news on the pandemic coming out of every daily briefing on COVID-19, Henry pointed to the U.K.’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine as a sign of hope.

“This is, of course, very exciting news for all of us … but it’s going to be some time before we get there,” she said.

She added that while approved vaccines may arrive in Canada within weeks, in the meantime, B.C. continues to lose people to the disease every day and transmission is unchecked.

Asked about whether the vaccine should be mandatory, particularly for those who work in the health-care system, Henry said Canada has never had mandatory vaccinations and that isn’t going to change because of COVID-19.

However, she said that anyone thinking of working in health who doesn’t believe in vaccines or objects to immunizations should choose a different career.

She was also asked about recent demonstrations by those who believe COVID-19 is a hoax and say she is hiding the truth. Henry said that those people represent a small minority in B.C., but it does make her angry to hear those things.

“This is very real. Ask anyone who has lost a loved one how real it is,” she said.

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Winnipeg testing site for first responders trying out rapid COVID-19 test –



A new Winnipeg testing site for first responders is collaborating with provincial scientists to gather data on the accuracy of a recently-approved rapid test for COVID-19.

“We’re excited that this has gone through its first week,” said Jay Shaw, assistant chief of emergency management for the City of Winnipeg, on Wednesday.

“It’s a really good program and it’s going to make a difference.”

The city opened its dedicated first-responder testing site at the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service academy on Nov. 20. The site is staffed by licensed paramedics who aren’t working in the field, and completed 93 COVID-19 tests on municipal and provincial first responders in its first week.

In addition to traditional nasopharyngeal swab tests, people who get tested at the site will be given a test using the Abbott Laboratories ID NOW rapid response testing device. The rapid test was approved by Health Canada in September.

People will receive results based on the traditional test, Shaw said. But results from the rapid test will be compared to the traditional ones, to help scientists at Cadham Provincial Laboratory determine its accuracy as part of a validity study.

Shaw said nearly everyone tested at that site will receive both tests, unless they aren’t eligible for the rapid test based on certain eligibility criteria.

“The validity of that test is very strong in terms of the positive result, but not so much on the negative, and that’s why we’re working with the province of Manitoba to do some studying,” Shaw said.

The testing device is a “great machine, has a lot of great purposes for the right use,” he said.

“[We’re] very happy to work with the province on this, and very happy to work with our paramedics and our team to be able to make sure that we have this service so that we can get quick testing for all of our responders, so we can keep our continuity going.”

Extra WFPS funding for counselling proposed

Like many other departments, the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service has seen increased absenteeism and overtime since the pandemic started, officials said Tuesday.

“That’s one of the reasons why we initiated dialogue with federal and provincial officials about the first-responder testing site,” Mayor Brian Bowman said at the news conference.

“It’s to minimize the amount of time that our first responders need to be in line if they need to get a test. It also frees up some space for the rest of us if we need to get a test.”

The city also proposed an extra $250,000 for counselling and other supports to first responders in its preliminary 2021 budget update Wednesday.

The additional funding, if approved, would go toward helping front-line members of the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service cope with the added trauma and stress of the pandemic.

“Trauma psychologically hurts and injures, and this investment will support emotional health services for WFPS members during this difficult time,” said Coun. Sherri Rollins (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry), who chairs the city’s protection, community services and parks committee, in a written release Wednesday.

“The stress of working in the WFPS goes beyond battling fires and attending medical calls. Seriously distressing issues like abuse, car accidents and suicides take an emotional toll, causing trauma and real injury to our members.”  

The proposal comes in addition to other suggested funding that would see the WFPS operating budget increase by six per cent over three years, rising from $204.3 million in 2020 to $216.9 million in 2023.

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Province studying rapid COVID-19 tests at Winnipeg's first responders testing site – CTV News Winnipeg



The Province of Manitoba is using a rapid COVID-19 test at Winnipeg’s new first responders testing site to help measure the accuracy of the test kits.

On Wednesday Jason Shaw, the manager of Winnipeg’s emergency operations centre, said the new site has completed 93 tests of city and provincial first responders during its first week.

The site opened on Nov. 20 in the parking lot of the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS) training academy at 2546 McPhillips St.

READ MORE: Manitoba making it easier for healthcare workers, first responders to get COVID-19 tests

Shaw said the city is now working with the Cadham Provincial Laboratory to study the accuracy of the Abbott ID Now rapid COVID-19 test kit.

The test kit can provide results to COVID-19 tests in 13 minutes or less, according to Abbott.

“Some people who receive a test at this location will receive both the traditional nasal swab tests and the Abbott ID Now rapid test,” Shaw said, adding people have to meet eligibility requirements to use the kits.

“The results (that) a person receives are based on the traditional tests, but the results of the rapid test are being compared with those results to help determine the accuracy of the rapid test.”

Shaw said the test kit has high validity for positive results but is not as accurate for negative results.

“That is why we are working with the Province of Manitoba to do some studying,” he said.

Health Canada previously told CTV News it had sent a shipment of more than 12,000 Abbott ID Now tests to Manitoba.

Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer, has previously said the province is working on a plan that would involve rapid testing in long-term care facilities.

The Province of Ontario has already announced a plan to deploy rapid test kits to hospitals, long-term care centres, and areas with high transmission.

-with files from CTV’s Josh Crabb

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