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COVID-19: 'Remain on guard' to keep surfaces clean of coronavirus, experts say – National Post



As parts of Canada begin to reopen following a nationwide lockdown to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, the country’s chief public health officer is warning people to remain vigilant.

Canada’s reported more than 2,290 deaths and about 43,500 cases of the virus since the pandemic was declared on March 11. And while the spread may be slowing in Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island, it’s still peaking in the country’s most populous provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

“I think we have to tread very carefully at this point,” Dr. Theresa Tam said. “We are seeing some bumps in the road that remind us we can’t let down our guard.”

Whether you’re continuing to hunker down, getting ready for the new normal, or bracing for subsequent waves of the pandemic, now is a good time to review best practices for dealing with the coronavirus on everyday surfaces.

How does COVID-19 spread?
The virus can spread from an infected person through respiratory droplets generated when someone coughs or sneezes, through personal contact (such as shaking hands) with an infected person, or by touching something with the virus on it.

How long can the coronavirus survive on surfaces?
The New England Journal of Medicine published a study in March, which tested how long the virus could remain on various surfaces in a lab setting. It showed that the virus was detected on copper for up to four hours, on cardboard for up to 24 hours and on plastic and steel for up to 72 hours.

The amount of the virus decreased over time and so the risk of infection from touching the surfaces would likely fall over time as well.

What are some of the most dangerous surfaces?
Any surface in a public place is potentially hazardous because you don’t know who has been there, or if they were infected.

For this reason, it’s important to avoid high-touch areas such as public transit, or grocery stores.

It’s important to avoid touching door handles, light switches, or taps that others may have touched and contaminated.

A worker in a protective suit inside a bus at the Toronto Transit Commission – Queensway Garage – on Evans Ave. near Kipling Ave. in Toronto, Ont. on Thursday April 16, 2020.

Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun/Postmedia

Can you get the virus from food?
There haven’t been any reported cases of COVID-19 being spread through food, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

However, it’s still recommended to follow safe food handling and cooking practices — such as washing fruits and vegetables in running water, properly cooking food and keeping counters and prep areas disinfected and clean.

Could you get the virus from groceries?
There’s no evidence that you can get the virus from food packaging, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible, said Dr. Julia Marcus, an infectious disease epidemiologist and professor in the Department of Population Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

“The potential risk is that an infected person recently handled our groceries, and then we touch those items and go on to touch our eyes, nose, or mouth,” she said. “There are several ways to reduce this risk, including letting the groceries sit untouched for some time, disposing of outer food packaging, or disinfecting hard surfaces like bottles or cans, but the most important thing is to wash your hands well after handling anything new that comes into your home.”

Is it possible that food deliveries or packages received in the post are contaminated?
There is a chance that a delivery person, or container could spread the virus. That’s why it’s best to use contactless payment methods.

And best practise would be to throw out or recycle any packaging. Also, remember to carefully wash your hands after handling it.

That said, if you’re receiving a book, or clothing that’s been packed in cardboard, it’s much more likely that the cardboard could be contaminated than the contents, which likely already spent days packed up.

High-touch surfaces such as toys, toilets, phones, electronics, door handles and TV remotes should be cleaned regularly

How safe are non-medical grade masks?
“The recommendation is to use a cloth face mask that fits snugly and has multiple layers of fabric,” said Harvard’s Dr. Marcus. “Cloth masks can be reused, but should be washed in between uses with hot water and laundry detergent.”

Are there any tips for cleaning surfaces?
Coronaviruses can be destroyed on surfaces by using appropriate disinfectants and following the instructions, according to Canada’s health agency.

Regular household cleaners including bleach solutions and cleaners with at least 70 per cent alcohol content should be effective.

High-touch surfaces such as toys, toilets, phones, electronics, door handles and TV remotes should be cleaned regularly.

And if somebody in your home has been diagnosed with the virus then everything should be disinfected more frequently.

This story idea initially came from a reader who took part in our COVID-19 ‘Ask Us Anything’ initiative. Want to know more? Ask us a question here.

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City asking people to wear masks on buses, but not mandatory – GuelphToday



As the city prepares to allow more riders on Guelph Transit buses, it is asking riders to wear a non-medical mask or face covering.

They are not mandatory.

Free 30-minute Guelph Transit service will continue for the rest of June but the city says thta with more businesses reopening and more people heading back to work, Guelph Transit is preparing to resume fare collection and regular schedules later in the summer.

In a news release Friday morning, the city said the request is based advice from Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health.

“According to health officials, wearing a homemade face covering/non-medical mask is not a substitute for physical distancing and hand washing. Wearing a mask has not been proven to protect the person wearing it, but it can help protect others around you,” the release said.

“As the buses get busy again, physical distancing may not always be possible. We’re asking riders to wear a non-medical mask or face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” says Robin Gerus, general manager of Guelph Transit.

Guelph Transit is encouraging face coverings, not requiring them.

“It’s becoming more common to wear a mask on public transit in other cities, but it’s new for Guelph. Some riders may not be aware of or understand the latest guidelines from health officials. Some may not have resources to purchase or make a mask, or they may have a medical reason for not wearing one,” added Gerus. Everyone is welcome to use Guelph Transit, and we’re asking people to protect and respect each other as ridership increases.”

Since March, Guelph Transit made the following adjustments to slow the spread of COVID-19:

  • free 30-minute service allows passengers to avoid using the farebox and board from the rear door
  • plastic barrier between the driver and passengers
  • hand sanitizing stations and cleaning supplies for drivers
  • no more than 10 people per bus
  • blocked several seats to encourage physical distancing between passengers

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the City and Guelph Transit encourage riders to continue following the latest advice from Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health:

  • wash your hands regularly or use hand sanitizer
  • stay at least two metres away from people you don’t live with
  • when you can’t maintain physical distancing, wear a non-medical mask or face covering

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WHO resumes hydroxychloroquine trial on Covid-19 patients – ITIJ



On May 25, WHO suspended the trial of the drug, which is usually used to treat malaria patients, after a study published in medical journal The Lancet found that Covid-19 hospitalised patients treated with hydroxychloroquine had a higher risk of death, as well as an increased frequency of irregular heartbeats, than those who weren’t treated with it. 

However, WHO officials have since asserted that there is no evidence that the drug reduces the mortality in these patients, and the study has since been retracted over data concerns. 

“The executive group received this recommendation and endorsed the continuation of all arms of solidarity trial including hydroxychloroquine,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during a press conference 3 June, adding that WHO planned to continue to monitor the safety of the therapeutics being tested in trials involving over 3,500 patients spanning over 35 countries. 

“WHO is committed to accelerating the development of effective therapeutics, vaccines and diagnostics as part of our commitment to serving the world with science, solutions and solidarity,” Ghebreyesus said. 

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'Truly sorry': Scientists pull panned Lancet study of Trump-touted drug – National Post



NEW YORK/LONDON — An influential study that found hydroxychloroquine increased the risk of death in COVID-19 patients has been withdrawn a week after it led to major trials being halted, adding to confusion about a malaria drug championed by U.S. President Donald Trump.

The Lancet medical journal pulled the study after three of its authors retracted it, citing concerns about the quality and veracity of data in it. The World Health Organization (WHO) will resume its hydroxychloroquine trials after pausing them in the wake of the study. Dozens of other trials have resumed or are in process.

The three authors said Surgisphere, the company that provided the data, would not transfer the dataset for an independent review and they “can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources.”

The fourth author of the study, Dr. Sapan Desai, chief executive of Surgisphere, declined to comment on the retraction.

The Lancet said it “takes issues of scientific integrity extremely seriously” adding: “There are many outstanding questions about Surgisphere and the data that were allegedly included in this study.”

Another study in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) that used Surgisphere data and shared the same lead author, Harvard Medical School Professor Mandeep Mehra, was retracted for the same reason.

The Lancet said reviews of Surgisphere’s research collaborations were urgently needed.

The race to understand and treat the new coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the pace of research and peer-reviewed scientific journals are go-to sources of information for doctors, policymakers and lay people alike.

Chris Chambers, a professor of psychology and an expert at the UK Center for Open Science, said The Lancet and the NEJM – which he described as “ostensibly two of the world’s most prestigious medical journals” – should investigate how the studies got through peer review and editorial checks.

“The failure to resolve such basic concerns about the data” raises “serious questions about the standard of editing” and about the process of peer review, he said.

The Lancet did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. The NEJM could not immediately be reached for comment.


The observational study published in The Lancet on May 22 said it looked at 96,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, some treated with the decades-old malaria drug. It claimed that those treated with hydroxychloroquine or the related chloroquine had higher risk of death and heart rhythm problems than patients who were not given the medicines.

“I did not do enough to ensure that the data source was appropriate for this use,” the study’s lead author, Professor Mehra, said in a statement. “For that, and for all the disruptions – both directly and indirectly – I am truly sorry.”

Many scientists voiced concern about the study, which had already been corrected last week because some location data was wrong. Nearly 150 doctors signed an open letter to The Lancet calling the article’s conclusions into question and asking to make public the peer review comments that preceded publication.

Stephen Evans, a professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said the retraction decision was “correct” but still left unanswered the question about whether hydroxychloroquine is effective in COVID-19.

“It remains the case that the results from randomized trials are necessary to draw reliable conclusions,” he said. (Reporting by Michael Erman, Peter Henderson, Kate Kelland and Josephine Mason Editing by Leslie Adler, Tom Brown, Giles Elgood and Carmel Crimmins)

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