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COVID-19 can remain infectious on bank notes, other surfaces for weeks: study

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TORONTO —
A new study looking at how long the novel coronavirus can survive on surfaces found that it can remain infectious on some surfaces — including bank notes — for at least 28 days, provided the temperature is right.

Published this week in the Virology Journal, the new paper describes how researchers tested the virus on several surfaces, including cotton and bank notes, at numerous temperatures in order to measure the lifespan of the virus under these different circumstances.

They found that the virus dies significantly faster on surfaces in hotter temperatures, and can survive on several non-porous surfaces for up to four weeks — much longer than previous studies have indicated.

Overwhelmingly, evidence has shown that the primary way COVID-19 is spread is through droplets and through sharing air with others, but that hasn’t stopped the fear of surface transmission. Hand washing is still one of the most important prevention methods that health officials tout.

Previous studies have looked at how long SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, remains infectious on different surfaces, with some studies finding it to be a matter of hours, and others saying it could be days.

In this study, the surfaces researchers tested the virus on included Australian bank notes — which, like Canadian bank notes, are polymer — paper bank notes, glass, vinyl, stainless steel and cotton.

Researchers noted that they wanted to include money because it is an object that travels frequently between different people. Stainless steel, vinyl and glass are materials found in most public spaces, and cotton is often found in clothing and bedding.

When a virus gets onto a surface, it is often through a sneeze or through droplets expelled from the mouth. Researchers diluted SARS-CoV-2 “in a defined organic matrix […] designed to mimic the composition of body secretions” before placing it onto the materials to measure the longevity.

They noted in the paper that the concentration of the virus in each sample was high, it still “represents a plausible amount of virus that may be deposited on a surface.”

Samples of each material with the virus on it were placed into a “humidified climate chamber” so a set humidity of 50 per cent relative humidity could be maintained while the samples were tested at different temperatures and timeframes.

Samples were tested at 20, 30 and 40 degrees Celsius, and were inspected 1 hour, 3 days, 7 days, 14 days, 21 days and 28 days after the virus had first been introduced to the material.

Researchers found that at 20 degrees Celsius, the virus could survive for at least 28 days on every material except for cotton, the most porous of the materials tested.

SARS-CoV-2 couldn’t be detected on cotton after 14 days had passed.

“The majority of virus reduction on cotton occurred very soon after application of virus, suggesting an immediate absorption effect,” the report said.

Does this mean every bank note in our wallets could infect us? According to Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, we shouldn’t jump straight to alarm.

“What we’re seeing empirically, clinically, with contact tracing, is that COVID is not spreading heavily through touch,” he said.

It is possible to contract the virus through surfaces, he said, “but it’s not happening very often.”

He said that earlier in the pandemic, when we had a looser understanding of the virus, there was a bigger fear of things like groceries or the mail in terms of surface transmission. But at this point, we have a greater understanding of how COVID-19 predominantly spreads.

“It’s shared airspace,” Furness said. “It’s droplet and aerosols and shared air with poor ventilation and prolonged contact. That’s how you get sick. That’s the thing to be scared of, which is why I’ve been very, very worried about indoor dining. And it’s not because you might touch contaminated cutlery. It’s because you’re in this room with a lot of other people and not wearing a mask and sharing air.”

This study carried out its experiments at a lab at the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness, with the samples in complete darkness “to negate any effects of UV light” — just one way that the conditions of the experiments differed from real life.

“[This study] tells you what can happen under laboratory conditions,” Furness said.

A bank note in your pocket or your wallet is rubbing up against other things, he explained, not sitting undisturbed to measure the longevity of a virus. If surfaces are exposed to sunlight as well, that can aid with a faster decay of any virus on the surface.

These studies are the first step, he said, and then researchers “need to test in the real world. What is the real significance of this?

“And those numbers are usually quite different.”

The raw numbers of the study also don’t paint the full picture. Although the virus was still detectable on most surfaces at the 28 day mark, it reduced in concentration much faster than that.

“Viruses aren’t alive,” Furness said. “They can’t regenerate, they can’t metabolize or protect themselves as soon as they leave your body. As soon as you exhale some virus, the virus starts to die.”

The half-life of the virus (the time it takes for it to reduce by 50 per cent) on a paper bank note at 20 degrees Celsius was 2.74 days, showing the viral load decreases in concentration far faster than the 28 days would suggest. After 9.13 days, 90 per cent of the virus was gone.

On cotton, at 20 degrees Celsius, the half-life was 1.68 days, and it took 5.57 days for a 90 per cent reduction in the virus.

Five to nine days is still a long time for a virus to remain infectious on a surface, although it’s still unknown at what point the viral load would be too small to actually make a person ill.

Researchers said in the paper that the extended half-life in this study compared to others could be down to the controlled conditions that they created for the experiment.

While this study does not mean we should panic about surface transmission, which remains one of the rarer ways to transmit the virus, it does provide insight into how temperature interacts with the virus’ survivability.

Researchers did not measure any of the virus samples at less than 20 degrees Celsius, but they observed how much the rate of virus decline sped up when the temperature increased from 30 to 40 degrees Celsius. Extrapolating backwards from that, they posit that if the temperature dropped significantly from 20 degrees Celsius, the lifespan of the virus on various surfaces could increase.

“This data could therefore provide a reasonable explanation for the outbreaks of COVID-19 surrounding meat processing and cold storage facilities,” they theorize.

Furness said the temperature is a huge factor when it comes to a virus’ survivability.

“In the winter, in freezing temperatures, COVID will last [longer] on surfaces,” he said.

“So if you’re going to a playground in the winter, it can be quite worrisome. I wonder whether we’re going to see that COVID does spread more by touch in the winter. I can’t say that it does, but it’s entirely possible that it will.”

He said the concept of temperature is something that hasn’t been emphasized enough as Canada begins to tackle its second wave.

“It’s not just the numbers are going up,” he said. “Numbers are going up, while temperatures are going down.”

The best thing to do?

“We should continue to wash our hands and be vigilant,” Furness said. “In fact, during COVID, I would say the best outcome of washing your hands is actually so you don’t get any other colds that would make you afraid that maybe you have COVID.”

Source: – CTV News

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Three Toronto hospitals dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks – Toronto Sun

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Three hospitals in Toronto are facing COVID-19 outbreaks, with several patients and staff confirmed to be infected.

St. Joseph’s Health Centre in the west end, as of this morning, has seven active COVID-19 positive patients and 11 active COVID-19 positive staff related to the outbreaks.

The total number of patient cases that tested positive for the virus at the hospital is 14, which includes the seven aforementioned patients as well as another seven unrelated to this outbreak, according to the hospital.

The outbreak stemmed from four units within the hospital — the 2L medicine unit, the 2E unit, the 3M unit and the 4E unit between Oct. 3 and Oct. 16.

“We are managing a significant number of confirmed COVID-19 cases at St. Joseph’s Health Centre,” said spokesperson Jennifer Stranges.

“Our patients, staff and community are our top priority, and we have implemented additional hospital-wide precautions to keep everyone safe.”

According to provincial health guidelines, a COVID-19 outbreak is defined as “at least two cases within a 14-day period where both could reasonably have been acquired” in a congregate setting.

Toronto Western Hospital on Bathurst at Dundas St. W. is pictured on Monday, October 19, 2020. Photo by Jack Boland /Toronto Sun

At Toronto Western Hospital, three patients and six staff members have tested positive for coronavirus.

Since Oct. 15, the outbreak has affected units 8A and 8B of the general internal medicine department in the hospital’s Fell Pavilion.

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According to University Health Network spokesperson Gillian Howard, additional testing of patients and staff is ongoing.

“The only new information is that there are no additional positive tests today from the swabbing that has been underway from Oct. 12 forward, so we remain at three patients and six staff with positive tests which may be hospital-acquired,” Howard said on Monday.

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The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health is also facing an outbreak at its Queen St. W. location after two patients fell ill and tested positive for the virus.

According to its website, the cases are tied to Unit 1-4.

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Struggling Manitoba hotel industry pleads for tax relief from province – CBC.ca

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Hotel owners in Manitoba are on edge as heightened pandemic restrictions come into force in Winnipeg and the surrounding area on Monday — and say they need government help to get through this.

“It’s like my worst nightmare ever. The impact is just, I can’t paint a more gloomy picture,” said Manitoba Hotel Association president and CEO Scott Jocelyn.

“It’s been a really tough seven or eight months dealing with all of this, and today we’ll see more challenges for our people. People are on edge. They’re very frustrated and really, really struggling.”

Starting Monday, stand-alone nightclubs, bars and beverage rooms (which are attached to hotels) must close, along with casinos, entertainment facilities with live entertainment, video lottery lounges and bingo halls.

Businesses licensed as restaurants and lounges can stay open but are limited to 50 per cent capacity and can only seat up to five people at a table.

The restrictions will stay in place at least two weeks and come as the Winnipeg region battles the worst surge of COVID-19 cases Manitoba has seen since the pandemic began.

Jocelyn said the provincial government has tried hard to balance the economy and the public’s safety through all of the measures it has instituted since March, “but the reality is, the protocols they’re putting upon us are having a huge impact on what we do.

“If people can’t travel into the city or the province, then we can’t put people in our rooms, we can’t hold events, we can’t have people congregating in our bars, in our restaurants. Everything we do is being impacted.”

Several broad assistance programs for business and individuals have been introduced by the province, but Jocelyn said the hotel association is hoping for specific relief.

Other provinces have better supported their hotel industry, he said.

“That’s one of the frustrations. Some of the things that have happened in other provinces — those provinces have handled them with some sector-specific relief, and the biggest one for us is paying the tax bill,” Jocelyn said. 

A hotel’s taxes are based on revenues, but from two years ago, he explained. 

“There isn’t a hotel in Manitoba that’s doing what they were doing two years ago [in terms of revenues due to COVID-19]. So how do you pay that bill?” Jocelyn said.

“They’ve weathered many storms but not a storm like this, and they really need some relief so they can continue to do all the great things that we do. We work hard for the province, we collect lots of taxes for the province in good times, and we need some help today.”

Jocelyn doesn’t believe the government knows how wounded the industry is, so his organization is just wrapping up a full economic impact study by accounting firm Meyers Norris Penny.

“We really need some numbers that we can put in front of them to paint that picture. I’m anxiously awaiting that report,” he said. He expects it will be released around the second week of November.

While some hotels in the province benefited from Manitobans taking stay-cations this year and exploring more of their own province, it’s not enough to turn the year around, Jocelyn said.

Some of the biggest hotels in Winnipeg have had single-digit occupancy rates after being closed for a few months due to COVID-19, he said.

“The stay-cation model, that’s not going to work for them.”

It’s difficult to remain viable when you’re only filling two out of every 10 rooms, agreed Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Loren Remillard, who echoed Jocelyn’s call for help.

“We need to have measures in place so we can ensure when we do get through this, we have a business community to return to, we have a restaurant sector, we have viable hotels and an arts and culture community that’s still vibrant.”

While there have been hardships across-the-board in the business community since the onset of the pandemic, those sectors have been disproportionately damaged, Remillard said. When the economy reopened in phases through late spring and early summer, they did not see a significant bounce back.

The restaurant, hotels and arts and culture communities have taken a big hit since the pandemic began, says the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

The restrictions that kicked in Monday will exacerbate an already-precarious situation, he said.

The business community fully understands the need, around public health, to implement those conditions, but it is “frustrating” to not see a corresponding level of relief measures in Manitoba for those hard-hit industries, he said.

For perspective, the Quebec government set aside $100 million to help businesses cover 80 per cent of fixed expenses such as rent and electricity for shuttered bars and restaurants, Remillard noted, adding that Saskatchewan’s government has specific funding streams for hotels, hospitality and the event industry.

Rainbow Stage was one of the many attractions that went quiet due to COVID-19 restrictions. (Kayla Kocian/Rainbow Stage)

On Friday, when the latest restrictions were revealed, Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen said it’s too early to talk about providing financial assistance to businesses impacted by the measures.

Remillard strong disagrees.

“We needed to be talking about this months ago. There is no too soon,” he said. “Two weeks is a lifetime for a business that’s holding on on a day-to-day basis.

“We need government to be a partner with the business community, to say ‘we recognize the difficulty you’re in and that it’s made worse by these necessary public health measures. We’re here to work with you to find solutions to ensure that you remain viable.'”

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New COVID-19 restrictions in effect for Winnipeg today – CityNews Winnipeg

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WINNIPEG (CITYNEWS) – It was a moment of exasperation from Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman.

While addressing the rising cases of COVID-19 in the city at a press conference last week, Bowman urged everyone capable of doing so to “wear a friggin’ mask.”

That frustration will certainly be echoed by many Winnipeggers who find themselves subject to a slew of new restrictions beginning today.

For the next two weeks, gatherings will be limited to five people and a maximum of five people will be allowed to sit together at a restaurant.

Beverage rooms, bingo halls and casinos will have to close. Restaurants, lounges and retail stores will be limited to half capacity.

Health officials say the measures were prompted by growing community transmission of the novel coronavirus, and data that shows many cases have been connected to people socializing in bars, restaurants and homes.

“We need to reduce our community transmission of this virus, we need to reduce the number of hospitalizations and deaths,” said Manitoba chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin last week. “And to do that, we need to keep our contacts down and focus on the fundamentals.

“We can make a change in a quick manner.”

A month ago, Winnipeg accounted for 184 of Manitoba’s 241 total active cases. Now, there are more than 1,400 active cases in Winnipeg – the bulk of the province’s 1,675.

Manitoba health officials reported two more deaths on Sunday. A man and woman in their 70s from the Winnipeg health region were the province’s 39th and 40th death.

The new restrictions are expected to impact several aspects of Winnipeggers’ day-to-day lives.

“Things like sporting events, only one parent should go with the child, if possible,” said Roussin. “The entire family shouldn’t go shopping together. Send one person if possible.” 

Roussin is also urging people to stay home all at costs if they are symptomatic.

“People are going out gathering with friends, going to party while ill, going to work while ill. We know for our success moving forward, we have to stop going out when we’re ill.”

The opposite is true when it comes to testing facilities, said Manitoba’s top doctor.

“We want to see symptomatic testing,” he said. “If you don’t have any symptoms, if you haven’t been directed by public health to be tested, please do not go for testing.”

–with files from The Canadian Press

Province to give COVID-19 update

Posted by CityNews Winnipeg on Friday, October 16, 2020

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