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CDC shortens quarantine recommendation for U.S., raising questions in Canada – CBC.ca

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The recommended quarantine time for close contacts of a positive COVID-19 case is being reduced by up to a week in the United States, but while some of Canada’s health experts say a similar approach could be useful here, others aren’t so sure.

The U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Wednesday it had shortened the recommended length of quarantine after exposure from 14 days to 10 — or seven days with a negative test result.

Health Canada was still recommending a 14-day quarantine period as of Wednesday, but Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease specialist at McMaster University in Hamilton, says cutting that time in half would be beneficial.

“It would be super important for the sake of incentivizing people to actually quarantine after exposure,” he said.

“And there’s a lot of different things that could theoretically open up — getting health-care workers back to work, getting kids back to school — a lot of ways where this could ease the burden of potential exposure in society.”

The CDC had previously said the incubation period for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could extend to 14 days, but the organization now says most people become infectious and develop symptoms between four and five days after exposure.

Chagla says the 14-day window was likely inspired from SARS data, where the incubation period was longer.

While isolation and quarantine are sometimes used interchangeably, Chagla says there’s a difference in the terms. Isolation is for those who have tested positive, while quarantine is for people who may or may not actually have the virus, like close contacts of positive cases or those travelling into Canada. Isolation recommendations for positive cases vary, but are typically 10 days after symptom onset.

Typical course of infection

Ashleigh Tuite, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, says a change in quarantine guidance reflects our evolving understanding of COVID-19.

“If you’re exposed, it takes a couple days for you to become infectious, so [seven to 10 days] should be enough to tell whether you’ve got the virus,” Tuite said. “But of course, that’s assuming your experience is reflective of the typical course of infection.”

The key to the CDC’s new guidance for Tuite is having the option to end quarantine at seven days with a negative test result. She suspects that’s in place to stop people who have the virus but no symptoms from ending the quarantine period too early.

A positive test at Day 7 would mean that person should continue to isolate, Tuite said, while a negative result would mean they could safely end quarantine, knowing enough time has passed since exposure to confidently assume they won’t still get sick.

Testing capacity challenges

Dr. Don Sheppard, the founder and director of the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity (MI4), says the CDC’s plan makes sense scientifically, but there would be logistical issues in testing every COVID contact in Canada who wanted to end their quarantine at Day 7.

“It’s impossible to do that,” he said. “It’s either 14 days of proper isolation, or it’s seven days with a negative test, and right now our system cannot offer seven days plus testing to the public at large.”

WATCH | Could the 14-day isolation period be shorter? (At 01:18:45):

Canadians put their questions about the worsening COVID-19 pandemic to experts during an interactive two-hour special, hosted by Adrienne Arsenault and Andrew Chang. 1:39:27

Testing capacity does exist in certain situations, Sheppard said, like for health-care workers and other front-line staff that need a quicker quarantine to get back to work. He cautioned, however, that taking a test on Day 7 still means isolating for an extra day or two while awaiting results.

Quarantine also needs to be done solo in order to work, Sheppard added, warning that the CDC guidance isn’t meant as a loophole for holiday gatherings if your family isolates together for seven days before an event.

Supports for people to quarantine

He used an example of military recruits in the U.S. who were told to quarantine for 14 days before reporting to camp. A handful of positive tests (0.9 per cent) were caught upon arrival, suggesting true quarantine hadn’t been followed.

Those recruits were sent home while the rest underwent another group quarantine. When tested again two weeks later, the positivity rate had grown to 1.3 per cent.

“Why? Because there were people incubating and they turned positive. And those people infected others in their groups,” Sheppard said.

“So if you don’t do strict, single-person isolation, you don’t actually break the cycle of transmission, you just pass it around in your group.”

Tuite says that further illustrates the usefulness of a shortened quarantine period.

A mother with young children, or someone who shares a small apartment with another person will find it harder to properly quarantine for longer periods, she said, as will someone who can’t afford to take a full two weeks off work.

“It really comes down to having the means to do it,” she said. “Can you survive for two weeks if you’re not getting income? Can you isolate in a household with multiple people?

“We need to have support in place so that people can quarantine, and that doesn’t change whether it’s for a week or 14 days. But it becomes much more challenging when it’s for longer periods.”

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Thursday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser on COVID-19, Dr. Anthony Fauci, says the United States will cease reducing U.S. staff counts at the World Health Organization and pay its financial obligations to it as it vows to stay fully engaged with the UN health agency to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

“I am honoured to announce that the United States will remain a member of the World Health Organization,” Fauci told the WHO’s executive board meeting in Geneva via video conference. The administration announced just hours after Biden’s inauguration that the United States would revoke a planned pullout from the WHO in July that had been announced by the Trump administration.

Fauci’s quick commitment to WHO — whose response to the coronavirus outbreak was repeatedly berated by the Trump administration — marks a dramatic and vocal shift toward a multilateral approach to fighting the pandemic.

He said the Biden administration “will cease the drawdown of U.S. staff seconded to the WHO” and resume “regular engagement” with WHO. He added: “The United States also intends to fulfil its financial obligations to the organization.”

Biden will sign 10 executive orders on Thursday to fight the coronavirus pandemic, including directing that disaster funds be used to help reopen schools and requiring that people wear masks on planes and buses, officials said.

Biden, a Democrat who took over from Republican President Donald Trump on Wednesday, has promised a fierce fight against the pandemic that killed 400,000 people in the United States under Trump’s watch.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, seen in this photo from last year, said Thursday that the U.S. will help the WHO’s efforts to bring vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics to people in need. (Patrick Semansky/Getty Images)

The U.S is entering “what may be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus and must set aside politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation,” Biden said in his inauguration speech.

One order will require mask-wearing in airports and on certain modes of public transportation, including many trains, airplanes and intercity buses, officials said.

He also plans to sign orders on Thursday to establish a COVID-19 testing board to ramp up testing, address supply shortfalls, establish protocols for international travellers and direct resources for minority communities hit hard by the infectious disease.

He plans to direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reimburse states and Native American tribes fully for the costs associated with National Guard and emergency supply efforts to combat the virus. Biden’s measures also restore “full reimbursement” from the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund for costs related to reopening schools.

FEMA funds are typically disbursed after hurricanes, floods or other natural disasters. Institutions including hospitals can apply after Trump declared the pandemic a national emergency in March. The fund had previously been reimbursing 75 per cent of costs.

Biden plans to partner with state and local governments to establish vaccination spots in conference centres, stadiums and gymnasiums.

The new administration will also deploy thousands of clinical staff from federal agencies, military medical personnel and pharmacy chains to increase vaccinations, and make teachers and grocery clerks eligible.

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 6:45 a.m. ET


What’s happening across Canada

COVID-19 case counts are dropping in the two provinces hardest hit by the pandemic, offering some hope that newly imposed restrictions are working.

Quebec and Ontario have both seen new infections trend downward compared to last week’s totals, weeks after each province enacted a series of more stringent pandemic measures.

Quebec marked a fourth consecutive day on Wednesday with fewer than 2,000 new cases, reporting 1,502 new cases. Ontario, meanwhile, recorded 2,655 new cases on Wednesday.

As of early Thursday, Canada had reported 725,496 cases of COVID-19, with 68,414 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 18,462.

Here’s a look at what’s happening across the country:

-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 6:30 a.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

A worker unloads boxes containing coronavirus vaccine manufactured in India, at the Department of Health Services in Kathmandu, Nepal. (Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images)

As of early Thursday morning, more than 96.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 53.4 million of the cases considered resolved or recovered, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than two million.

In the Asia-Pacific region, India has sent one million doses of a coronavirus vaccine to Nepal, a gift that is likely to help repair strained ties between the two neighbours. Nepal’s health minister says the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine, manufactured under license by Serum Institute of India, will be given to health workers and other front-line personnel. He says Nepal would like to purchase four million more doses, and asked for the Indian government’s help.

India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, began supplying coronavirus vaccine to its neighbours this week. Relations between India and Nepal have been strained by a territorial dispute.

Police cordon off an area around a residential neighbourhood in Shanghai’s Huangpu district on Thursday after Chinese officials discovered at least three new coronavirus cases in the area near the historic Bund riverfront. (AFP/Getty Images)

China is imposing some of its toughest travel restrictions yet as coronavirus cases surge in several northern provinces ahead of the Lunar New Year. Next month’s festival is the most important time of the year for family gatherings in China, and for many migrant workers it is often the only time they are able to return to their rural homes.

This year, however, travellers must have a negative virus test within seven days of departure, and many local governments are ordering quarantines and other strict measures on travellers.

A national health official had this message Wednesday for Chinese citizens: “Do not travel or have gatherings unless it’s necessary.”

The director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says access to medical oxygen is a “huge, huge critical need” across the continent as Africa’s case fatality rate from COVID-19 is now above the global average and health centres are overwhelmed.

John Nkengasong said the case fatality rate across the African continent is 2.5 per cent while the global average is 2.2 per cent. And while confirmed coronavirus cases in the past week across Africa dropped by seven per cent, deaths rose by 10 per cent.

“It’s beginning to be very worrying,” Nkengasong told reporters Thursday. He noted that a Nigerian colleague has said struggling health workers are having to decide which cases to manage and which not to manage in Africa’s most populous country.

Health workers wait to take throat swabs as part of COVID-19 testing at the Denlyn Mall taxi rank in Mamelodi township in South Africa on Wednesday. (Phill Macakoe/AFP/Getty Images)

Twenty-one of Africa’s more than 50 countries have case fatality rates above the global average, led by Sudan at 6.2 per cent. The continent has seen more than 6,000 deaths in the past week, with more than 81,000 overall. Africa has had more than 3.3 million confirmed virus cases. Almost all African countries are still waiting for COVID-19 vaccines.

In the Americas, Mexico has had a second consecutive day of COVID-19 deaths surpassing 1,500. Officials reported 1,539 such deaths Wednesday, a day after 1,584 deaths were listed. There was also a near-record one-day rise in new virus cases of 20,548.

Mexico has seen almost 1.69 million confirmed coronavirus infections and over 144,000 test-confirmed deaths related to COVID-19. With the country’s extremely low testing rate, official estimates suggest the real death toll is closer to 195,000. Mexico City is the current epicentre of the pandemic in the country, and 89 per cent of the capital’s hospital beds are in use. For the nation as a whole, 61 per cent of hospital beds are filled.

In the Middle East, authorities in Lebanon on Thursday extended a nationwide lockdown by a week to Feb. 8 amid a steep rise in coronavirus deaths and infections that has overwhelmed the health-care system.

Despite increasing the number of hospital beds in the country of nearly six million, doctors and nurses have struggled to keep pace with patients flooding their facilities. Intensive care unit bed occupancy has been rising, hitting 91 per cent late Wednesday, according to the World Health Organization.

Registered daily infections have hovered around 5,000 since the holiday season, up from nearly 1,000 in November. The death toll has surpassed 2,000 with new deaths of between 40 and 60 a day in the past week.

Doctors say with increased testing, the number of confirmed infections has also increased, recording a positivity rate of over 20 per cent for every 100 tests. Nurses and doctors are overwhelmed, and more than 2,300 health-care workers have been infected since February.

In Europe, Germany is pushing its partners in the European Union to reduce coronavirus infections in an effort to keep a new variant first detected in Britain at bay, and says new border checks might be needed if they don’t co-ordinate.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany’s 16 state governors agreed on Tuesday to extend the country’s lockdown by two weeks until Feb. 14. Although Germany’s infection figures are finally declining, officials worry that more infectious variants could push them back up quickly if allowed to take hold.

Merkel said on Tuesday: “If countries were to go very different ways — which I don’t see at the moment, but it could happen — then we would have to be prepared [to] say, ‘then we have to reintroduce border controls.'” She stressed that “we don’t want this.”

Her chief of staff, Helge Braun, on Thursday emphasized the need to push infections down “to keep the mutation out of core Europe.”

Braun told ARD television: “All countries must do this, and if a neighbouring country doesn’t do this we can hardly protect ourselves against the mutation, and then even tougher entry measures on our internal borders are unavoidable. And since everyone doesn’t want that, it’s important that we act together now.”

A man walks past a restaurant temporarily shuttered during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday in Berlin. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leaders of Germany’s 16 states agreed to extend a hard lockdown into mid-February in an effort to bring down high COVID-19 infection rates. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Sweden’s government extended on Thursday several national COVID-19 restrictions, including requirements to work from home and a ban on selling alcohol after 8 p.m. Both were extended to Feb. 7.

A requirement that face masks be worn on public transportation was also extended through the spring. A national recommendation on remote education also was extended to April 1 but adjusted so that distance learning and teaching on site will be mixed. It will be up to local principals to work that out.

“To Sweden’s high school students: now a tough time continues. But you have shown that you can meet this challenge,” said Sweden’s Education Minister Anna Ekstrom.

The country of 10 million has opted to keep parts of its society open and lifted in September a national ban on visiting elderly care homes. It has reported 537,967 cases, including 10,797 deaths

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Americans fleeing Trump's presidency faced Canada's stiff immigration process – CBC.ca

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After Donald Trump was elected president of the United States in 2016, many Americans considered moving to Canada, but some have realized it’s not that easy leaving their country behind.

Heather Vargas was one American who actually made the move after Trump’s inauguration in early 2017.

She moved to Halifax that same year, a plan that started as a joke the night Trump was elected.

But she has since moved back to her home state of Arkansas.

“America is my home,” she said. “Yes, America is currently a dumpster fire, but it’s my dumpster fire and I love it.”

After Donald Trump won the presidency back in 2016, hoards of Americans planned to escape to Nova Scotia, but four years later, some have realized it’s not so easy to leave their own country and culture behind. CBC’s Shaina Luck has that story. 2:13

Vargas lived in Halifax for a year and a half.

Rob Calabrese would consider Vargas one of the lucky few.

The radio announcer started the website Cape Breton if Trump Wins in early 2016 as a way to attract Americans to rural areas of Nova Scotia.

During Trump’s campaign and his eventual election, Calabrese had thousands of inquiries from Americans wanting to move to Atlantic Canada.

But only a handful of people followed through.

“People who contacted me about moving to Canada, who had means or professions that likely made them a good candidate for immigration, found that our countries are alike, but there is a culture shock even for Canada and the United States,” he said. 

“So I found that people would rarely make that move even if they were able.”

Rob Calabrese started the website ‘Cape Breton if Trump Wins’ in 2016 as a way to attract Americans to the rural area. (CBC)

And if that was the case, Calabrese discovered immigrating to Canada isn’t as easy as it seems.

David Nurse, an immigration lawyer with McInnes Cooper in Bridgewater, N.S., has witnessed this first-hand.

Nurse said he immediately started receiving calls from people who were interested in immigrating to Canada “largely or entirely because of Trump’s election” in 2016.

“What I saw in practice, though, was that not all of these individuals would have a pathway to Canada,” he said.

David Nurse is an immigration lawyer with McInnes Cooper in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. (CBC)

To immigrate to Canada, individuals must be supported through specific programs offered through the federal government, which are designed to attract the young and educated who are skilled in in-demand occupations.

“A lot of people, I guess I would say, were somewhat exploring the opportunity,” Nurse said. 

“They never obviously considered emigrating from the United States before and once they found out what was involved in terms of the effort, the cost and the time, many of them backed away.”

Vargas said she doesn’t regret her decision to move to Canada, despite it being a brief stay.

“Overall, it was an amazing experience. I’m very, very thankful that I moved to Canada,” she said.

However, she said she won’t be leaving the U.S. again.

“I want to stay, and I want to try to fight for everything that I can to make America the best country that I know it can be.”

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The 4 Keys to Paying Less On Your Car Insurance

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car insurance

If one of your friends or family members got a better car insurance premium than you, it isn’t because they know someone in the industry, or they got lucky; all they did was follow these four simple steps to lower auto insurance premiums:

When it comes to car insurance in Canada, many of us pay too much. If you happen to know someone who has the same driving record as you do, yet they are paying less, it isn’t an accident, and no insurance company. What they more than likely did was used these four ways to get the lower rate:

 

1. RATE COMPARISON

Ummm, let me say state this differently, the SHOPPED! We shop prices for cars, computers, clothes, and these days EVEN gas, but when it comes to car insurance, we get the quote from the insurance rep and say “ok” and pay the rate without even shopping it!

There is a couple of reasons why we do this, and incidentally, they are myths … here is why we don’t shop

Myth #1 – there is no reason to shop because there is no difference between insurance companies when it comes to the coverage. They all charge the same price

Myth #2 – shopping rates are for new drivers who don’t have insurance yet or those people who have had accidents or tickets.

Those myths need to be BLOW OUT OF THE WATER! If you believe them, it costs you money!

If your driving record is clean, you are probably still paying way too much for car insurance because car insurance companies DON’T all charge the same; their rates do vary, and in some cases, they differ a lot.

Take the time to get a Canada car insurance quote [http://www.insurmycar.ca/quoteme.html].

 

 

 

 

2. Deductibles, consider raising them…

A deductible is the amount of the claim that YOU pay, and then your insurance company pays the rest if you are involved in an accident. We usually take the lower deductible because we want to pay less out of our pocket and have the insurance company kick in more. Good in theory, but, of course, it doesn’t work that way. We are still paying a higher premium. If you go with a higher deductible, it lowers your premium; I mean, we aren’t in accidents every day, right? So, why not elect to pay the higher deductible to save over the long run on our rate?

 

 

3. Discount, hey, do you offer any…

There are many insurance discounts you can take advantage of; here are ones to ask for:

Age – when you hit 25, the rate drops. There could be other breaks as well… ask!

Multi-vehicle discount – more than one car insured with the same company

Multi-line discount – insure the car, house, cottage, and boat and get a break if it is with the same company.

Anti-theft discount – get discounts based on the anti-theft devices you have

Low mileage discount – you’re a lower risk if you don’t drive that much.

Occupational discount – depending on the line of work you’re in, you may be one.

Auto club discount: CAA or some of the other auto clubs have discounts.

The key here … If you don’t ask, you don’t get it!

 

 

4. Watch your driving…

I know, I know, things happen when you’re on the road. However, keep in mind that your driving record is the key factor insurance company’s use in figuring out your insurance rates. The accidents you happen to get involved in that are your fault, and the traffic tickets all factor in and remain with you for a long time, so pay attention to what you’re doing!

We ALL have to pay for car insurance in Canada; that’s the law. However, we DON’T have to pay huge car insurance premiums; take the time, and use the four keys above; you can save on car insurance in Canada!

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