A Penticton, B.C., man is raising concerns about delays in COVID-19 testing in the South Okanagan city and how it could contribute to the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Colin MacDermott, a hotel employee, fell ill on Friday, July 17, and immediately contacted 8-1-1.
“Got a major headache, sore throat, and had alittle bit of a temperature,” he said of his flu-like symptoms that he experienced at the time.
The 43-year-old was referred to the Penticton Health Centre, but when he contacted the local health unit, he was informed the next available appointment to get a test was on Wednesday.
MacDermott stayed home and self-isolated for four days before getting tested and now must wait another one to three days for the test result.
He fears the approximately one-week lagtime between getting sick and obtaining his test result could contribute to the spread of the virus if he, in fact, tests positive.
“I do have two or three people that I see relatively regularly and they are asking me ‘do I need to go get tested’? And I say ‘I’ll let you know as soon as I know.”
MacDermott is also off work, without pay, and hopes he will be eligible for the $1,000 B.C. Emergency Benefit available to residents who stopped working because of COVID-19.
Should the Kelowna outbreak be considered a ‘superspreader’ event?
“I realize I am in a privileged position. I don’t live paycheque to paycheque, so I’m not hurting badly financially,” he said.
“But I know some of my co-workers, if they went through the same situation, they wouldn’t be able to pay rent and buy groceries if they had to miss a whole week because they got a cold.
He said he doesn’t fault the hard-working healthcare workers, but thinks the system could be improved.
“My question is, does Interior Health need to be putting more resources towards testing now that we are over the first bump? But things are ramping up again, it appears,” he said.
The Interior Health Authority (IHA) says the cluster of cases in Kelowna has “dramatically increased” demand on testing in the Okanagan.
There are now 70 confirmed cases of COVID-19 linked to community exposure in the Kelowna area which began around Canada Day. Many of the patients were visitors to the region and are people in their 20s and 30s, health officials said.
In Kelowna, Interior Health is doing five times the number of tests per week (1,500/week compared to 300 before the most recent case cluster), the health authority said in an email.
More than 60 COVID-19 cases linked to Kelowna area exposures
In Penticton, the number of tests per week has more than doubled (180/week compared to 80 previously).
Interior Health has increased staffing at the collection centre in Kelowna and moved from being open for four hours of testing per day to 11 hours of testing per day (9:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily).
The Penticton centre is open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. six days per week and is “actively working to increase their capacity in response to the current surge,” Interior Health said.
“Patients who call to book a test are provided with the earliest time possible, in many cases, it is the same day,” said IHA.
“Where the wait is longer due to the demand for testing, IH is implementing strategies to increase capacity,” he said.
Since mid-June, test turn-around times are the longest in Interior Health compared to any other health region in B.C., according to data collected by the BC Centre for Disease Control.
As of July 20, it takes 35 hours to get lab results in Interior Health, compared to 20 hours in Vancouver Coastal, 18 hours in both Fraser and Northern Health and 16 hours on Vancouver Island.
Kelowna mayor fears step backwards from COVID-19 cases
The provincial average is 22 hours.
Interior Health confirms all Okanagan tests are being analyzed at Kelowna General Hospital (KGH).
“We have testing that is done here in Kelowna as well as the provincial lab in Vancouver and so we strive to have test results back as soon as possible,” said Dr. Sue Pollock, interim chief medical health officer at Interior Health.
“The minimum time we can expect test results is 24 hours and sometimes it can take a little bit longer,” she added.
Norm Letnick, Kelowna-Lake Country Liberal MLA and opposition health critic, says while he is encouraged about the expansion of testing to meet demand in IHA, he will be raising concerns with his counterpart, B.C.’s minister of health Adrian Dix, in regards to testing delays in smaller communities like Penticton.
“You can be sure that on behalf of the people of Penticton and all of British Columbia, I will be talking to him about COVID-19 and the response that his ministry has had towards addressing issues like testing and turnaround time,” he told Global News.
Interior Health says it is difficult to compare IH’s lab analysis time to other health authorities given its large geographic area serving many rural and remote communities.
“We recognize there are cases where people are waiting longer than they expect, and we know that is stressful. Individuals waiting for test results are asked to stay home and self-isolate,” Interior Health said.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Quebec's test positivity rate highest since May as COVID-19 infections climb – CBC.ca
While the number of new COVID-19 cases in Quebec remains low when compared to the peak of the third wave, the test positivity rate hit 1.4 per cent on Sunday.
That’s the highest it’s been since late May, and new public health data shows infections are on the rise.
Quebec has reported an average of 139 new cases a day over the past seven days, up from an average of 57 a week prior.
Quebec Public Health reported 154 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and 347 new infections were identified on Friday and Saturday.
There have been no new deaths attributed to the disease since Thursday but there are 61 COVID-19 patients in hospital — of those, 17 are in intensive care.
Dr. Donald Vinh, an infectious diseases specialist at the McGill University Health Centre, told The Canadian Press that the current trends are concerning as they show “there is still ongoing community transmission.”
The increased rate is based on fewer tests, he said.
On May 31, Quebec recorded a test-positivity rate of 1.5 per cent based on 15,783 tests. While on Sunday, Quebec analyzed only 11,202 tests.
With that data in mind, Vinh said the concern lies in the future, as schools and university classes resume in late August and September.
“If it’s already increased when we are in the ‘safe’ outdoors,” he said, “what’s going to happen when we’re in the indoors?”
Quebec’s public health institute reported that 84.6 per cent of residents 12 and up have received at least one dose of vaccine while 68 per cent are adequately vaccinated.
Delta variant stirs worldwide worry
Meanwhile, health officials in the United States are sounding the alarm over the rapid spread of the delta variant which is described as extremely contagious, even among vaccinated people. It may also cause more serious disease than earlier coronavirus strains.
“High viral loads suggest an increased risk of transmission and raised concern that, unlike with other variants, vaccinated people infected with delta can transmit the virus,” said Rochelle Walensky, head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in a statement last week.
On Friday, the CDC released data from a study of an outbreak in Massachusetts in which it said three-quarters of those infected had been fully vaccinated.
The CDC recommends that Americans wear masks in areas with substantial transmission “regardless of vaccination status.”
The highly contagious variant, which was first discovered in India in late 2020, has spread around the world and now accounts for the majority of cases in Canada and various other countries.
As of late July, the delta variant accounted for about five per cent of new cases in Quebec, compared to nearly 90 per cent of new cases in Ontario.
For now, Quebec is continuing to scale back restrictions. For example, bars and restaurants are now officially allowed to serve alcohol until 1 a.m.— one hour longer than what was previously allowed.
Stadiums, venues and festivals can welcome 15,000 spectators outdoors, up from 5,000.
The details on all changes can be found here.
U.S. vaccination rate hits the highest pace in weeks – CTV News
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Sunday that 816,203 additional doses were administered, the fifth straight day the agency recorded more than 700,000 shots in arms. That brings the total number of doses administered to 346,456,669, according to the CDC numbers released Sunday.
The seven-day average of administered doses is now 662,529 per day, the highest average since July 7.
Additionally, Sunday was the third day in a row that the seven-day average of people getting their first shots topped 400,000. The last time that metric was over 400,000 was the July Fourth weekend.
That’s still less than a quarter of the peak in mid-April, when nearly 2 million people were getting their first shot each day.
If the U.S. picked up vaccinations to the April pace, it would take only a month and a half to reach all eligible people.
Per CDC data released Sunday, 168.4 million people are fully vaccinated, or 49.6% of the U.S. population. Among vaccine-eligible Americans — meaning those who are 12 and older — 58.1% are fully vaccinated.
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, hopes the recent surge in cases driven by the Delta variant is changing the minds of the vaccine hesitant, he told CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday. Collins noted that in the last two weeks, vaccination rates have increased 56% nationally.
“This may be a tipping point for those who have been hesitant to say, ‘OK, it’s time,'” Collins said. “I hope that’s what’s happening. That’s what desperately needs to happen if we’re going to get this Delta variant put back in its place.”
Overall, the seven-day average of people becoming fully vaccinated each day is at 247,385 people per day.
Twenty states have now fully vaccinated more than half of their residents, including Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington state, as well as Washington, DC.
On the other hand, the states with the lowest percentage of their population vaccinated are Alabama and Mississippi, which have 34% and 35% of their residents vaccinated, respectively.
Correction: An earlier version of this story and headline gave the wrong timing for when the doses were administered. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the additional doses Sunday, but it’s not clear when they were all administered.
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Delta spreads 'like wildfire' as doctors study whether it makes patients sicker – CTV News
LOS ANGELES —
With a new wave of COVID-19 infections fuelled by the Delta variant striking countries worldwide, disease experts are scrambling to learn whether the latest version of coronavirus is making people – mainly the unvaccinated – sicker than before.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that Delta, first identified in India and now dominant worldwide, is “likely more severe” than earlier versions of the virus, according to an internal report made public on Friday.
The agency cited research in Canada, Singapore and Scotland showing that people infected with the Delta variant were more likely to be hospitalized than patients earlier in the pandemic.
In interviews with Reuters, disease experts said the three papers suggest a greater risk from the variant, but the study populations are limited and the findings have not yet been reviewed by outside experts. Doctors treating patients infected with Delta described a more rapid onset of COVID-19 symptoms, and in many regions an overall increase serious cases.
But the experts said more work is needed to compare outcomes among larger numbers of individuals in epidemiologic studies to sort out whether one variant causes more severe disease than another.
“It’s difficult to pin down increase in severity and population bias,” said Lawrence Young, a virologist at the UK’s Warwick Medical School.
In addition, it is likely that the extraordinary rate of Delta transmission is also contributing to a greater number of severe cases arriving at hospitals, the experts said.
Delta is as contagious as chickenpox and far more contagious than the common cold or flu, according to the CDC report.
Shane Crotty, a virologist at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in San Diego, said the clearest indication that the variant may cause more severe disease comes from the Scotland study, which found that Delta roughly doubled the risk of hospitalization compared to an earlier version.
The majority of hospitalizations and deaths from coronavirus in the United States are occurring in people who have not been vaccinated. But there is evidence that the shots are less effective in people with compromised immune systems, including the elderly.
For vaccinated, otherwise healthy individuals, the odds are that if they contract COVID-19 they will only experience asymptomatic or mild disease, said Dr. Gregory Poland, infectious disease expert at the Mayo Clinic.
“But they can pass it on to family members and others who may not be so lucky,” Poland said. “We have to be vaccinated and masked or we will, for the fourth time now, endure another surge and out of that will come worse variants.”
The rate of severe illness, especially in regions where vaccination rates are low, is again straining healthcare workers on the front lines of the pandemic.
“This is like a wildfire, this is not a smouldering campfire. It is full-on flames right now,” said Dr. Michelle Barron, senior medical director of infection prevention and control at Colorado’s UCHealth.
Research from China suggesting that the Delta variant replicates much faster and generates 1,000 times more virus in the body compared to the original strain highlights the biggest danger of this new wave, Barron said.
“It is hard to tell if they are more sick because of the Delta variant or if they would have been more sick anyway,” she said.
Other doctors said patients infected with Delta appear to become ill more quickly, and in some cases with more severe symptoms, than those they treated earlier in the pandemic.
“We are seeing more patients requiring oxygen sooner,” said Dr. Benjamin Barlow, chief medical officer at American Family Care, a 28-state chain of urgent care clinics.
At his clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, Barlow said that around 20 per cent of patients are testing positive for COVID-19, compared with two to three per cent a few weeks ago. Patients are assessed at that time for potential hospital admission and oxygen support.
David Montefiori, director of the Laboratory for AIDS Vaccine Research and Development at Duke University Medical Center, said the Delta variant is more infectious and leads to faster onset of illness – particularly for the unvaccinated.
“Frankly there’s a severity that comes from this variant that is a little more severe,” Montefiori said on a webcast last week. “It’s not just easier to transmit, it makes you sicker.”
(Reporting by Deena Beasley in Los Angeles, Josephine Mason in London and Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Daniel Wallis)
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