California officials said this week that they had bolstered efforts to confront the growing threat of the coronavirus, declaring that they were prepared and pursuing aggressive measures to thwart its spread.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Thursday that the state had pushed for improved and expanded testing, urging federal officials to alter a testing protocol that he considered “inadequate” to address the situation California faces. He also said officials were actively monitoring people who might have come into contact with the pathogen.
California has had more coronavirus cases than any other state and has also been the nucleus of quarantine efforts in the United States. The sense of concern became more heightened after officials confirmed what is believed to be the first documented case of community transmission, in Solano County.
The governor sought to strike a delicate note by quelling fears over the virus while acknowledging the seriousness of the situation. He told residents that the overall number of cases remained low and that the state government was well positioned to keep it that way.
“We have been in constant contact with federal agencies,” Mr. Newsom, a Democrat, said in a news conference on Thursday. “We have history and expertise in this space. We are not overreacting, but nor are we underreacting to the understandable anxiety that many people have as it relates to this novel virus.”
Mr. Newsom has resisted declaring a state of emergency, a step taken by some local officials largely in an effort to muster public health resources. But there are worries about the economic fallout, with events having already been changed or canceled. Both Facebook and Microsoft said they were pulling out of conferences scheduled for March and May.
How many people are infected in California?
Thirty-three people have tested positive for the virus in California, said Dr. Sonia Angell, the director of the California Department of Public Health. Out of that group, 24 were from repatriation flights, seven were related to the patients’ travel and one had contracted it from an infected spouse. The most recent case was the one involving community transmission, which was reported in Solano County.
How many people are being tracked?
Mr. Newsom said five people had moved out of the state after testing positive. In addition, at least 8,400 people who have returned from overseas are being monitored in 49 jurisdictions.
What makes Solano County a focus of concern?
One confirmed coronavirus case that cropped up in Solano County, between San Francisco and Sacramento, is especially worrisome to health officials. The patient had not had contact with anyone known to be infected, and had not traveled recently to a country where the virus is known to be in circulation.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was the first such case reported in the United States, and it raised the possibility that someone who is asymptomatic may be carrying the virus and infecting others without knowing it.
The patient, a woman, became ill and was first treated in a hospital in Vacaville, then transferred to the UC Davis Medical Center. Doctors there suspected coronavirus and requested a test. But the C.D.C. did not perform the test for days, because it was restricting testing to sick people known to have been exposed to the virus. The day after her case was confirmed, the C.D.C. broadened its criteria to allow testing of people like her who appear to be ill from coronavirus but have no known point of exposure.
Solano County is also the location of Travis Air Force Base, where many Americans who were infected in Asia have been quarantined.
A government whistle-blower has filed a complaint saying that the federal health officials sent to interact with quarantined people at the base were not given proper training or protective gear, were not monitored or tested, and were allowed to move freely around and off the base — practices that potentially could have spread the virus into the community. The Department of Health and Human Services said it was looking into the complaint.
Similar things may have happened at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar near San Diego, another base where American coronavirus evacuees from Asia were taken to be quarantined, according to a person with direct knowledge of the efforts there.
How is the state responding?
California officials said on Thursday that the C.D.C. had promised to vastly expand the state’s ability to test patients for the coronavirus. Mr. Newsom repeatedly said the previous system had been “inadequate” to keep the virus from spreading.
Mr. Newsom said the director of the C.D.C. had promised him that physicians would have a much greater ability to test patients who were showing symptoms of the infection, changes the governor said “can’t happen soon enough.”
“Testing protocols have been a point of frustration for many of us,” Mr. Newsom said, referring to health officials in California and governors of other states. State officials said California had just 200 testing kits left.
Even as the governor resisted declaring a statewide emergency, officials in San Francisco and Orange County announced they were taking that step. But officials in both places stressed that the move was less an acknowledgment of an active crisis and more about mobilizing the resources to prevent one.
“This declaration of emergency is all about preparedness,” San Francisco’s mayor, London Breed, told reporters on Wednesday.
Nichole Quick, the health officer for Orange County, said the formal declaration there would enable local officials to be “more nimble and flexible” in their response.
“This is a rapidly evolving situation,” Ms. Quick said on Wednesday, according to The Orange County Register, which reported that there had been one confirmed case of the virus in the county.
Can a state force a city to house patients?
State officials planned to move people infected with the virus to a state-owned facility in Costa Mesa, a city of more than 100,000 in Orange County. But city leaders are fighting to keep them out.
The authorities in California selected the site after the Defense Department informed them that patients who tested positive for the virus could no longer stay at Travis Air Force Base.
Federal officials had planned to move the patients to a government facility in Alabama, court documents said, but officials in California thought that moving the group, most of them said to be residents of the state, would be detrimental to their health and well-being.
Instead, state officials said the people would be moved from the base in Solano County to the facility in Southern California, where they would remain in isolation while recovering.
But the decision touched off a legal fight with Costa Mesa. A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order to stop the move. The judge said she would reconsider the issue after state and federal authorities provide more details about how they plan to protect the health of the community, as well as the people with the coronavirus. The judge set a hearing for March 2.
“This is a new one in terms of claiming a right not to have infectious disease introduced into your community,” said Polly Price, a professor of law and global public health at Emory University. Although cities and towns once claimed “an absolute right” to guard against disease, she said, state-level control over isolation and quarantine has been the norm for more than a century.
What has life been like for evacuees on the military bases?
Blair Zong, 33, was among hundreds of Americans who were evacuated on flights arranged by the U.S. government and have had to wait through mandatory 14-day quarantines on military bases.
Ms. Zong, who lives in San Jose, Calif., was visiting her mother and grandparents in Wuhan, China, where she grew up, when the coronavirus outbreak became an epidemic.
She agreed to keep a daily journal of her time in quarantine at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego.
Reporting was contributed by Patrick J. Lyons, Sean Plambeck, Roni Caryn Rabin, Farah Stockman, Louis Keene, Emily Cochrane, Margot Sanger-Katz and Noah Weiland.
Ontario needs 900 new ICU beds to cope with coming surge in COVID-19 patients, models suggest – CBC.ca
Ontario will have to add nearly 900 new intensive-care beds to its existing supply to be able to handle the surge in COVID-19 patients forecast under the best-case scenario in provincial models of the pandemic.
The province has an estimated 415 ICU beds available now, as the Ford government attempts to create the hundreds of new spaces experts expect they’ll need.
The additional beds would result in an approximate total of 1,300 dedicated ICU beds for COVID-19 patients.
The models released by the province on Friday suggest an increase in demand that could, in the best-case scenario, peak on April 18, but remain below Ontario’s total capacity if all 900 new beds are made available by then.
In the worst-case scenario, demand for ICU beds would rise sharply until at least the end of April, exceeding the province’s capacity as early as April 14, even with all 900 new spaces.
However, that scenario will likely never come to pass, as signs indicate that the number of COVID-19 patients isn’t actually increasing as quickly as researchers thought it would.
Health officials say a continued commitment to physical distancing will help Ontario avoid the untenable strain on hospitals suggested by the worst-case numbers.
“If we can keep the prevalence of the disease to a lower level, the capacity that we have online, or that we could bring online, would indeed be sufficient,” said Matthew Anderson, president and CEO of Ontario Health.
The latest models also suggest that between 3,000 and 15,000 people will die of COVID-19 in Ontario during the pandemic. The model also forecasts 80,000 total cases by the end of April.
Few ICU beds remain at several GTA hospitals
Data obtained by CBC News shows a rapidly dwindling number of ICU beds in the Greater Toronto Area.
Just nine critical-care beds remain available among the 153 ICU beds in the hospitals of the Central Local Health Integration Network. Reports also show just 18 ICU beds available among the 130 critical care beds among the hospitals in the Mississauga Halton Local Health Integration Network
The Ontario government has given permission to all hospitals in the province to expand their capacity for COVID-19 patients, though it is not yet clear if they will have the staff necessary to accommodate that growth.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province is recruiting retired nurses, medical students and other volunteers to help staff overstretched hospital departments.
Elliott said other hospitals may begin renting hotels, motels or retirement homes to increase capacity. Others, she said, are using field hospitals to prepare for the influx of patients.
“That is something that is calibrated on an hour-by-hour basis, depending on where the outbreaks are happening,” Elliott said on Friday.
“We are ready to go, depending on where the hotspots are with COVID-19 and what each individual hospital needs, but they all have an individual plan in place right now to expand their capacity.”
There’s a ‘war being fought,’ emergency doctor warns
But some frontline workers say there’s not much more room to expand past their current capacity.
Dr. Brett Belchetz, a Toronto emergency room physician, said although their hospital isn’t yet overrun, they’re not far from their limit.
“If volumes are going to go up tremendously … we certainly will very quickly be in a situation where we will not have the equipment or the space or the supplies to care for those people,” Belchetz said in an interview with CBC Toronto.
Although he said fewer COVID-19 patients are arriving at his emergency room, most of the people who are coming in are quite sick.
And what people need to understand, Betchez said, is that “there is a war being fought out there.”
If the province’s COVID-19 restrictions are unsuccessful, he said there won’t be enough ventilators to help all patients who are critically ill.
“The only way that we can stop that from happening is to prolong the outbreak to make sure we don’t have all those cases at the same time,” Beltchetz said.
“We cannot let our guard down.”
Google Mobility Reports a slippery slope: cyber security expert – Global News
In an effort to assist governments with ensuring residents are remaining in their homes during the COVID-19 outbreak Google has provided Mobility Reports which depict growing and shrinking trends in a number of activities.
In both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick the sections outlining retail and recreation, grocery and pharmacy, transit use and attending the workplace all declined significantly.
READ MORE: Nova Scotia surpasses 200 COVID-19 cases
However, two other sections actually saw increases: residential, which refers to time spent at home, climbed by eight percent in New Brunswick and five in Nova Scotia. But the other – parks – rose dramatically by 101 per cent and 95, respectively.
For Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil, the last section continues to be a source of frustration while a state of emergency continues in the province.
“At a glance, Nova Scotia is not doing well when it comes to staying away from our parks and beaches,” he said Friday before the conclusion of the day’s COVID-19 update with Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health.
“We don’t need online graphs to tell us what we need to do. We need to stay the blazes home.”
This type of data tracking isn’t new, nor is the idea of government’s using it to keep tabs on their citizens.
Coronavirus outbreak: ‘Critical time’ as Nova Scotia sees signs of community spread, officials say
But it’s what’s done in the coming weeks and months surrounding the use of this technology that some cyber security experts say requires strong surveillance.
“History shows us governments, when they take on emergency powers during a crisis, don’t generally give those powers back,” explained David Shipley, CEO of Beauceron Security, a Fredericton firm that specializes in helping businesses become and remain secure online. “Any attempts to use this data has to have some careful consideration given to the sunset clauses.”
“We need to know that after this emergency is over clearly they’re going to stop using that data and they’re going to delete the data they have gained,” he said.
Within the current climate, residents have been asked to remain at home as much as possible to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Tracking devices during this state of emergency can certainly help give local governments and law enforcement a better idea of how well that is or isn’t being observed.
But Shipley warns that the data gained from tracking mobile users isn’t foolproof and could lead to problems if used to target or surveil individuals, rather than amass information.
“The data can be flawed,” Shipley said.
“The data accuracy of location data depends on the quality of the measurement,” he explained. “If you’re a person living in an urban area in Atlantic Canada like Halifax and you’re close to your wifi and other data points, the more data points the more accurate it is.”
“But if you’re living in rural Atlantic Canada and you only have the cell phone signal for example, maybe not the GPS data, it can be as inaccurate as a couple of miles.”
The possibility of the data coming through inaccurately Shipley says should influence how it’s used, likening it to political polls rather than a scientific study.
Driver dies of COVID-19 weeks after complaining of passenger’s cough
He says while it can be used as a guide, citing how a mobility report uptick in trips to parks could then be followed up on, it’s critical that the way people’s personal data is monitored closely and their right to privacy isn’t taken away unknowingly.
“Using good data to make public policy decisions at an aggregate, anonymous level, again with respect to individual privacy and ultimately freedom, there’s potential,” he explained. “But tracking down individuals and treating us all like we’re under house arrest is a future I don’t think we signed up for.”
Although right now there’s no indication individual surveillance is being considered, it’s not that far-fetched according to Shipley who says it’s already ongoing elsewhere in the world.
“We actually saw examples in Asia, South Korea and Taiwan, where folks who took their devices off of them actually got visits from police because now they couldn’t be tracked,” Shipley explained. “If people start knocking on your doors to make sure you’re respecting quarantine because you haven’t had your device on you, well that’s effectively house arrest.”
“Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.”
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
UBC researcher heading up team testing drug that might treat COVID-19 – CityNews Vancouver
VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A drug that might be a treatment for COVID-19 will soon be tested by an international team led by a researcher at the University of British Columbia.
Dr. Josef Penninger says early infection may be blocked by medication targeting the virus, which is similar to SARS.
“Our previous work has helped to rapidly identify ACE2 as the entry gate for SARS-CoV-2, which explains a lot about the disease. Now we know a soluble form of ACE2 that catches the virus away, could be indeed a very rational therapy that specifically targets the gate the virus must take to infect us. There is hope for this horrible pandemic,” he explains.
The professor in the faculty of medicine is also the director of the Life Sciences Institute and the Canada 150 Research Chair in Functional Genetics at UBC.
Clinical trials of a drug that might block #COVID19 will soon be done by an international research team headed by @ubc‘s Dr. Josef Penninger.
He says early infection MIGHT be blocked by medication targeting the virus which is similar to SARS. @NEWS1130
— Marcella Bernardo (@Bernardo1130) April 3, 2020
The focus of the study, partially funded by the Canadian federal government, is trying to keep COVID-19 from infecting blood vessels and kidneys.
“We are hopeful our results have implications for the development of a novel drug for the treatment of this unprecedented pandemic,” Penninger says in a release issued by UBC.
Clinical trials for this anti-viral therapy called APN01 (human recombinant soluble angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 – hrsACE2) will be handled by the European biotech company Apeiron Biologics.
Emergency funding from Ottawa will focus on accelerating the development, testing, and implementation of measures to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak.
NEWS 1130 has reached out to the doctor in charge of the project but he is currently in Vienna.
How bad is it? The state of the coronavirus-hit Canadian economy in numbers – Financial Post
Canadian restaurant sector laid off 800,000 in March, with wave of permanent closures expected this month – Financial Post
Google releases location data to show if coronavirus lockdowns working in 131 countries – Deccan Herald
Iran anticipates renewed protests amid social media shutdown
Popular Richmond BBQ spot speaks out about coronavirus rumours after man collapses outside restaurant – Vancouver Is Awesome
Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver reports January housing sales up 42.4 percent
- Business17 hours ago
121K B.C. hospitality workers off the job, 28% of restaurants risk going under: survey – Global News
- News24 hours ago
Canada’s COVID-19 cases surpass 10000
- Tech17 hours ago
Google releases location data to show if coronavirus lockdowns working in 131 countries – The Jakarta Post – Jakarta Post
- Business14 hours ago
Mortgage deferrals at Canada's big banks pile up, association says – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
- Media16 hours ago
Media Briefing on COVID-19 Modelling – Government of Ontario News
- Tech13 hours ago
Exclusive: iPhone 9 launch imminent, 2020 ‘iPhone SE’ in red, white, and black with up to 256GB – 9to5Mac
- News18 hours ago
Ontario to release 'stark' COVID-19 projections Friday – CBC.ca
- Health18 hours ago
Number of deaths linked to COVID-19 outbreak at Bobcaygeon nursing home rises to 17 – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News