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Coronavirus: What's happening around the world on June 26 –



The latest:

Texas and Florida clamped down on bars again Friday in the biggest retreat yet amid a surge across the South and West that sent the number of confirmed new coronavirus infections per day in the United States to an all-time high of 40,000.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered all bars closed, while Florida banned alcohol consumption at all such establishments. Together the two states joined the small but growing list of those that are either backtracking or putting any further re-openings of their economies on hold because of the comeback by the virus.

Texas has surpassed 5,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients for the first time. In Houston, county officials Friday elevated a public threat warning system to the highest level.

“We never brought the curve all the way down,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. “We only flattened it.”

Hospitalizations in Texas, reported by state health officials, have now jumped more than threefold over the past month. New records are set daily, and Abbott has brought back a ban on elective surgeries to free up beds.

Even so, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence on Friday sounded a note of optimism during a Friday afternoon news conference.

“As we see the new cases rising, and we’re tracking them very carefully, there may be a tendency among the American people to think that we are back to that place that we were two months ago, that we’re in a time of great losses and great hardship on the American people. The reality is we’re in a much better place,” he said. 

Pence tried to put a positive spin on the fact that in many jurisdictions, those under 35 are accounting for about half of new infections, given that younger people recover more quickly from the effects of the virus.

WATCH | Houston hospitals ‘weeks away’ from limit:

Health care officials in Houston say most hospitals in the city are operating with 90 per cent of intensive care unit beds occupied. 1:47

Meanwhile, the number of single-day confirmed new infections in the U.S. soared past the previous high of 36,400, which was set on April 24 during one of the deadliest stretches in the crisis so far, according to the count kept by Johns Hopkins University. The average number of new cases per day has risen about 60 per cent over the past two weeks, according to an Associated Press analysis.

While the increase is believed to reflect, in part, greatly expanded testing, experts say there is ample evidence the virus is making a comeback, including rising deaths and hospitalizations in parts of the country, especially in the South and West. 

WATCH | Specialist calls on young people to accept ‘societal responsibility’The top U.S. infectious disease specialist called on young people to accept ‘societal responsibility’  amid a surge of positive tests for coronavirus. 1:03

The virus is blamed for 124,000 deaths in the U.S. and 2.4 million confirmed infections nationwide, by Johns Hopkins’ count, though Pence quoted a total of 126,000.

But the true numbers are probably much higher because of limited testing and other factors. Officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, relying on blood tests, estimated Thursday that 20 million Americans have been infected. That is about six per cent of the population and nearly 10 times higher than the official count. 

WATCH | Infectious disease specialist on global response to COVID-19:

Dr. Michael Gardam says U.S. figures suggesting the coronavirus is 10 times more widespread than official statistics indicate could very well be accurate. 6:42

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday that Imperial County, east of Los Angeles, has become so overwhelmed by the virus that the state was recommending it issue a strict new stay-at-home order. Newsom also said that in response to rising COVID-19 hospitalizations, he has paused allowing counties to further reopen their economies.

What’s happening with COVID-19 in Canada

As of 8:45 p.m. ET on Friday, Canada had 102,794 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 65,726 of the cases as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 8,556.

In Europe, the official in charge of Spain‘s response to COVID-19 says imported infections are a growing source of concern as the continent readies to welcome more visitors.

Epidemiologist Fernando Simon said Thursday that 54 people who had contracted the disease in the past week have been linked to recently arrived visitors in Spain. He suggested that controls should be strict and that regional and local governments should be ready to apply localized isolation to avoid spreading the disease. 

King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain greet spectators as they take a walk on the promenade of Platja de s’Arenal in Palma de Mallorca. (Clara Margais/Getty Images)

In Britain, Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned that the government has the power to close beaches and other public spaces amid growing concerns over the public’s adherence to physical distancing rules. 

Huge crowds on English beaches Thursday prompted the concern. Trash bins overflowed, extra police were called and the rural roads gridlocked by beachgoers now have signs stating the area is full. 

Watch | Massive crowds ignoring physical distancing rules flock to U.K. beaches:

The World Health Organization’s chief scientist says AstraZeneca appears to be in the lead in the effort to develop a coronavirus vaccine, but Chinese companies are making significant strides.   2:10

Meanwhile, Sweden‘s chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, lashed out at the World Health Organization on Friday, calling it “a total mistake” to put his nation on a list of countries where “accelerated transmission” could overwhelm health systems. “This is unfortunately a total misjudgment of the Swedish data,” Tegnell told Swedish radio. 

The report by the WHO’s Europe office on Thursday named 11 countries, including Sweden, Armenia, Albania, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. Sweden has seen a steep rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, but this has been attributed to an increase in testing. 

Also Friday, the WHO announced AstraZeneca’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine is probably the world’s leading candidate and most advanced in terms of development.

WATCH | WHO gives update on COVID-19 vaccine development:

Local officials declare it a ‘major incident’, lambasting people for their ‘irresponsible behaviour’. 1:15

In Asia, the virus has seen a comeback. In China, where the pandemic originated in December, authorities have mobilized resources for mass testing and locked down parts of Beijing this month due to an outbreak that has infected 260 people. The 11 new cases reported in the capital Friday continued a downward trend.

In Japan, officials recorded more than 100 new infections on Friday. It is the first time the country has seen numbers that high since May 9.

Meanwhile, India neared half a million confirmed COVID-19 cases on Friday following its biggest 24-hour spike of 17,296 new infections, prompting a delay in resumption of regular train services of more than a month.

At the same time, other countries with large populations like Indonesia, Pakistan and Mexico grappled with large caseloads and strained health-care systems. The world’s fourth-most populous country, Indonesia, passed 50,000 cases on Thursday, with at least 2,620 deaths, the highest number of cases and fatalities in Southeast Asia. 

In Australia, health officials are expecting more cases of COVID-19 as hundreds of nationals return from overseas to begin mandatory quarantine.

About 300 people are due to arrive in Adelaide this weekend from Mumbai, India, while hundreds are expected to follow from South America and Indonesia.

People in hotel quarantine will be tested for the coronavirus at the start and end of their 14-day isolation.

South Australia state Health Minister Stephen Wade says he is preparing for about five to 10 per cent of returnees to be infected, as was the case when people arrived from Indonesia in other states.

In South America, Argentina will extend and tighten a lockdown in and around Buenos Aires following a sharp rise in cases in recent weeks, President Alberto Fernandez said on Friday.

“We need to gain time to guarantee that our health system is ready and can serve everyone,” he said. “The quarantine is a remedy for the pandemic, the only one we know of.”

Overall cases in the country have risen fivefold since late May, hitting over 50,000 on Thursday when there were 2,606 new confirmed daily cases. The death toll stands at more than 1,150.

Hospitals in the capital of Venezuela‘s main oil-producing state are filled with coronavirus patients, witnesses said this week in the first reports of the pandemic overwhelming the country’s debilitated health care system.

Health experts have long feared the impact of COVID-19 on Venezuela, where there are constant shortages of medicine and essential supplies after years of economic and political crisis.

A health worker takes a blood sample for a quick COVID-19 test from man who works selling cookies at the Coche food market in Caracas on Tuesday. (Ariana Cubillos/The Associated Press)

This week, opposition figures and health care workers in the city of Maracaibo, capital of Zulia state, have reported that an outbreak that started in May has filled the city’s hospitals and infected dozens of doctors and nurses.  According to official figures, Venezuela had 4,525 confirmed cases and 39 deaths as of Friday, although the true numbers appear to be significantly larger. 

A comeback of the virus is also erasing hard-won gains in South Korea, which reported 39 newly confirmed cases on Friday, mostly from the densely populated capital area that had escaped the worst of the country’s outbreak in February and March. There’s criticism that authorities, concerned about a fragile economy, were too quick to ease physical distancing guidelines and reopen schools in May.

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Coronavirus airborne spread: WHO calls for more evidence on COVID-19 transmission – CNET



Aurelien Meunier/Getty
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

An open letter, signed by 239 researchers from 32 countries, sent to public health bodies, including the World Health Organization, on Monday argues there’s significant evidence the coronavirus can persist in the air and spread in tiny, airborne particles from person to person. The letter, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases on Monday, advocates for “the use of preventative measures to mitigate this route of airborne transmission” and suggests re-examining the role of different transmission routes in the spread of disease.

The existence of the open letter was first reported by The New York Times and Los Angeles Times on Saturday, describing the WHO as an organization “out of step with science” on the matter. On Thursday, the WHO responded by updating its scientific brief on how the coronavirus is spread. 

It notes the science isnt yet settled on whether SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, spreads effectively and causes disease via the air. And it appears it’s not a yes or no equation. Like many aspects of the pandemic, it’s a puzzle that remains unsolved.

“It’s possible and even likely that airborne transmission occurs for SARS-CoV-2 sometimes,” Babak Javid, an infectious diseases physician at the Tsinghua University School of Medicine, said in a statement. “It’s not at all clear how common this is.”

The WHO’s official guidance on the matter is the virus moves from person to person via “small droplets” that are expelled when a person with COVID-19 coughs, sneezes or speaks. These droplets are too heavy to travel great distances, sinking quickly to the ground. In addition, it states the virus can be picked up from surfaces. That’s why hand-washing and social distancing are important to help curb the spread.

But the signatories in the open letter argue SARS-CoV-2 lingers in the air, and this may play a role in transmission. They believe when a person with COVID-19 expels virus, the particles remain aloft and can travel great distances on air currents, particularly where ventilation is poor. “It is understood that there is not as yet universal acceptance of airborne transmission of SARS-CoV2; but in our collective assessment there is more than enough supporting evidence so that the precautionary principle should apply,” they write. 

To mitigate the risk of airborne transmission, they propose two major measures should be implemented: Better ventilation in public buildings and reducing overcrowding. It also calls for the WHO to recognize this potential route of transmission and more effectively communicate the risks associated with it. 

“We are concerned that the lack of recognition of the risk of airborne transmission of COVID-19 and the lack of clear recommendations on the control measures against the airborne virus will have significant consequences,” the researchers write. The WHO has been reticent to provide additional advice highlighting the risks, citing a lack of evidence.

Some scientists voiced concerns over the letter suggesting the concerns over airborne transmission may be overblown.

“I’m a bit shocked this came up,” says Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases researcher at the University of Toronto. “There is no new data, just a signed letter that makes headlines.”

Over the air

The debate is centered on interpretation of transmission modes, and this confusion extends to the public’s perception of how the disease spreads.

“A problem here is the potential conflict between the technical notion of airborne transmission and the perception of the general public about this term,” said Jose Vazquez-Boland, chair of infectious diseases at the University of Edinburgh.  

The academic kerfuffle essentially pits “droplets” — the heavy particles that fall to the ground within six feet — against “aerosols” — light viral particles that remain suspended in the air. The key difference is the size of the particles.

“The size of [a] droplet is going to be really important, because all effectively have mass or weigh something,” explains Bruce Thompson, a respiratory expert at Swinburne University in Australia. The bigger respiratory droplets from something like a sneeze don’t stick around in the air long; they’re airborne, but they drop to the ground quickly because of gravity. Aerosols are different.

“If it’s an aerosol, it’s potentially going to be floating around the air more,” Thompson says.

These technical distinctions can make it hard for the general public to understand what it means for a virus to be “airborne.”

“For the public, it may be difficult to differentiate between the different situations and technical definitions,” Vazquez-Boland said. 

You might immediately think just going for a jog or spending time outside could result in infection as COVID-19 particles make their way into your lungs, but it’s more likely the “airborne” route occurs in densely packed, indoors settings with poor ventilation. Whether you can be infected with SARS-CoV-2 is likely context-specific, and many factors will play a role. Some of this nuance is being lost in the academic to and fro and causing some of the public’s confusion over the spread of the disease.

“There is a bit of a false dichotomy between droplet and airborne transmission,” Bogoch said. “It’s more of a spectrum rather than silos.

“COVID-19 falls closer to the droplet end of the spectrum,” Bogoch said. 

Even if the risk is understated or under-acknowledged by the WHO, it may not have a dramatic effect on combating the spread. The organization does recommend avoiding crowded places as part of their official guidance on protecting yourself from COVID-19. It also advises those who feel sick to stay home or wear a mask when leaving the house, another factor limiting the risk of airborne transmission. 

For now, whether coronavirus is airborne, the guidance remains mostly the same. Avoid crowded indoor locations, or if you must be indoors, try to spend less time there. The virus may accumulate in poorly ventilated spaces, increasing the risk of infection. 

You should continue to maintain social distancing measures. When you’re out, put on a mask. Wash your hands. And keep listening to advice from local health authorities with the caveat that information can — and will — change based on new evidence.

WHO comments

During a press briefing on Tuesday, journalists questioned the WHO about the New York Times report and the open letter, giving the organization a chance to speak publicly on the matter. 

“We acknowledge there is emerging evidence in this field,” said Benedetta Allegranzi, a WHO technical lead in infection prevention and control. “We believe that we have to be open to this evidence and understand its implications regarding the modes of transmission.”

“As we’ve said previously, we welcome the interaction from scientists all over the world,” added Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead on the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are also looking at the role of airborne transmission in other settings where you have poor ventilation,” she noted. Van Kerkhove noted the WHO had been working on a “brief” regarding transmission for several weeks. The organization released the brief on Thursday, July 9, which is an update on the “modes of transmission” statement from March 29.

The WHO now acknowledges the emerging evidence of airborne transmission provided by the open letter, but the organization’s new brief states patients with COVID-19 “primarily” infect others through droplets and close contact. The WHO hasn’t “reversed” its guidance, as some claim, but rather added to it based on new evidence (and the open letter), while acknowledging the evidence for airborne transmission remains slim and “transmission of SARS-CoV-2 by this type of aerosol route has not been demonstrated.”

How important this route is for spreading COVID-19 is still up for debate and the WHO’s updated brief states “urgent high-quality research is needed to elucidate the relative importance of different transmission routes.”

Updated July 7: Added WHO briefing comments.
Updated July 9: Adds WHO scientific brief publication and comments, updated headline.

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COVID-19 Bulletin #127 –



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Public information, contact Manitoba Government Inquiry: 1-866-626-4862 or 204-945-3744.

Media requests for general information, contact Communications Services Manitoba: 204-945-3765.

Media requests for ministerial comment, contact Communications and Stakeholder Relations: 204-945-4916.

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Stay vigilant, Manitoba: top doc warns of second COVID-19 wave – Winnipeg Free Press



The Free Press has made this story available free of charge so everyone can access trusted information on the coronavirus.

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With zero COVID-19 cases reported thus far in July, Manitoba’s top doctor is warning people not to be complacent about the novel coronavirus — and to brace for the fall.

Dr. Brent Roussin says Manitoba could be hit with a second wave of COVID-19 worse than the 325 cases reported so far in the first.

“Manitoba’s numbers remain favourable, but we need to remain vigilant to keep those numbers low,” Roussin said at a news conference Thursday. He reported there are only four active cases in the province, none of which are hospitalized, and 314 people have recovered.

“Manitobans are well-versed in the things that have led to our flattening of the curve: hand hygiene, physical distancing and, most importantly, now as we move forward, is to stay home when we’re ill,” Roussin said. ”This is going to be vital to our success.

“We can’t have people with symptoms of respiratory illness going to work or to school. We need to ensure we’re protecting everyone and staying home when ill.”

Even if there are no active cases in Manitoba, people can’t let their guard down: a lot more COVID-19 cases are expected, he warned.” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

“We need to prepare to see an increase in cases in the fall, higher than even our first wave, possibly,” the chief provincial public health officer said. “We’re going to do whatever we can to not get back into an area where we were in March and April, with large shutdowns.

“We want to learn how to live with this virus.”

That means reducing the risk — especially for those most susceptible to severe outcomes. Health officials are working on a messaging campaign urging residents to get a seasonal flu shot and, if they have symptoms, to get tested for COVID-19 and stay home.

“The early identification of cases is vital so we can do that contact tracing, we can isolate cases,” Roussin said. “We’re going to be getting Manitobans prepared to see increased absenteeism at work and increased absenteeism at school, because we want those people to be at home when they’re ill.”

The province has increased its stockpile of personal protective equipment and has “a much better system of tracking our stores of PPE,” Roussin said.

“Even if we see influenza A activity in November and not COVID, we don’t know that COVID won’t be here in December or January, so we’re going to need to treat this upcoming respiratory (flu) season as a COVID season until proven otherwise.”

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.

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