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COVID-19 testing sites overwhelmed as cases rise, kids return to school – Red Deer Advocate

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OTTAWA — Provinces are looking to expand COVID-19 testing as many Canadians wait long hours to be swabbed or can’t get in for testing at all.

Demand for testing surged in much of the country in recent days, as schools and universities reopened and the number of identified cases began to rise.

Ottawa public health officials said they’d seen record demand at testing sites since the weekend, and many people were turned away both Monday and Tuesday because the sites had reached capacity.

In London, Ont., two testing sites hit capacity in the afternoon Tuesday.

New testing centres have opened in Laval, Que., and Edmonton in the last week to accommodate rising demand. Quebec Premier Francois Legault said his province is trying to expand sites in regions that previously weren’t seeing much call for swabbings, as well as adding capacity to labs to do the actual tests, but he said getting equipment is taking time.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Tuesday the lineups for testing are “ridiculous” and he is trying to see if pharmacies can be used to test some asymptomatic people to take pressure off overloaded COVID-19 assessment centres.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said some increase in demand has been expected, “but perhaps not to this extent.”

Ottawa mother Robin MacIntyre was waiting in line with her daughter at Ottawa’s Brewer Park testing site for the second day Tuesday, after they failed to get in on Monday. She had already waited two hours Tuesday and was frustrated.

“I think this is ridiculous,” she said. “They knew this was coming.”

People started lining up two hours before the testing site opened at 9 a.m. and by mid-morning, the lineup snaked around a nearby soccer field four times. Some people brought lawn chairs and boxed lunches, entertaining their kids with smartphones and tablets, or let them play on a nearby playground. By 10:30 a.m. people at the back of the line were already being warned they wouldn’t get in, even though the site was open until 3:30 p.m.

MacIntyre wondered what is going to happen in the winter.

Ontario’s public health chief Dr. David Williams said Monday the province is looking at what to do about winter testing lines, including possibly finding a way for people to safely wait indoors.

Ottawa’s local authorities are trying to increase test capacity from 2,000 to 3,000 a day, and is hiring and training more staff over the next week. Dr. Alan Forster, a vice-president at the Ottawa Hospital who is overseeing testing for the Ottawa region’s COVID-19 response committee, said two local testing sites should be able to add four more hours per day within a week.

He said the No. 1 driver of the surge in demand for testing is kids.

But Ottawa officials are also desperately trying to convince adults who don’t have symptoms and have no known exposure to COVID-19 to stop coming in for tests. Forster said asymptomatic people who haven’t had close contact with someone who has COVID-19 are clogging up the system.

Ottawa public health chief Dr. Vera Etches said people without symptoms or a known exposure can give themselves peace of mind they don’t have COVID-19 by practising the public health precautions preached for months: wear a mask, keep your distance, avoid large gatherings and wash your hands.

The surge in cases is driving testing demand too because the number of potential exposures is growing. In London, testing demand soared after five students at Western University tested positive over the weekend.

Etches said people who are testing positive are also reporting more close contacts, which means more people have to be sent for testing. She said in March many people were reporting 15 to 20 close contacts, while in the summer, that had fallen to just two or three per person.

This month, she said some people have more than 100 contacts, and one even had more than 150.

Dr. Theresa Tam, the country’s chief public health officer, said Tuesday the federal government is offering federal lab capacity to help the surge in demand because getting testing done quickly is critical to identifying and isolating cases and controlling the pandemic.

Tam also said Canada needs to get more rapid tests, so results can be provided in under an hour rather than in one or two days. She said the faster tests still need to be approved by Health Canada and couldn’t say when that might happen.

Dr. Tony Mazzulli, microbiologist in chief at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, said conducting a test on a sample takes less than 24 hours but it takes time to get the specimens from the test sites to the lab, and more time to get the results back to the testing site and then entered into a computer so patients can be contacted.

Mazzulli said his lab saw between 4,500 and 5,000 specimens a day for testing in the last two or three weeks, up from between 3,000 and 3,500 a day over the summer. It can do as many as 10,000 now and are working to get that to above 17,000 by mid-October.

With files from Paola Loriggio in Toronto, Morgan Lowrie in Montreal and Jordan Press in Ottawa.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 15, 2020.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

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Coronavirus: About 20% of grocery store workers in Boston had COVID-19, and most were asymptomatic, study found – WABC-TV

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Grocery store work in Boston puts employees at serious risk for infection, a new study found, particularly those who have to interact with customers.

These workers likely became a “significant transmission source” for COVID-19 without even knowing it because most in the study were asymptomatic.

The analysis, published Thursday in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, is the first to demonstrate the significant asymptomatic infection rate, exposure risks and psychological distress grocery workers have felt during the pandemic.

In the study, 20% of the 104 grocery workers tested at a store in Boston in May had positive nasal swab tests.

This was a significantly higher rate of infection than what was seen in the surrounding communities, the researchers said. Workers who dealt with customers were five times as likely to test positive for COVID-19 as colleagues in other positions.

Myths about COVID-19 busted: Masks, indoor transmission, cold weather, and more

But three out of four of those who tested positive had no symptoms.

“We were definitely surprised to see that there were that many people that were asymptomatic,” said Dr. Justin Yang, an assistant professor at Boston University School of Medicine and a researcher at Harvard School of Public Health who worked on the study. “This is definitely very alarming as it means that retail grocery store employees are exposed to customers and sort of serve as a middleman for the virus – like a super spreader almost.”

Workers in the study had tried to take precautions. Nearly all, 91%, said they wore a face mask at work and 77% said they also wore masks outside of work. Yet only about 66% said they were able to practice social distancing consistently on the job.

This inability to social distance had an emotional, as well as a physical impact. Nearly a quarter of the people in customer service jobs said they had problems with anxiety and depression compared to 8% of workers who did not have to interact with customers. Employees who commuted to work by bike, car or by walking were less likely to experience depression than those who used public transportation, the study found.

“If you are in an environment when you’re literally in front of a customer, you can’t be more than six feet and that is really stressful for essential employees,” Yang said.

At least 108 grocery workers have died and more than 16,300 have been infected or exposed to Covid-19, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, or UFCW, said Thursday. The union represents 1.3 million employees.

The rates of infection among the workers in this study do seem high, Yang said. By comparison, an earlier study of Covid-19 infections among Dutch health care workers found the infection rate was about 10%.

Yang said he hopes this study prompts the government and store owners to provide better guidance, routine testing and protection for grocery store workers.

There has been a national movement to designate grocery workers as first responders which would give them priority access to testing and personal protective equipment.

In an editorial for CNN in August, Marc Perrone, the President of UFCW and Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris argued that grocery workers should also get hazard pay.

Non-union grocery workers often have little to no healthcare coverage, meaning they could potentially face expensive health care bills if they contracted COVID-19.

Some states have increased support for grocery workers by increasing access to childcare and requiring shoppers to wear masks. Three states offer free testing for these workers and four offer worker’s compensation, according to UFCW, but none of the states provide the full first responder status to grocery workers, and rules are inconsistent from state-to-state.

“We spend a lot of time talking about healthcare workers, and they are important, but we’re missing a lot of the pieces of the puzzle if we don’t look at non-health care workers exposure,” Yang said. “Their voices are really not being heard. I thought it was important to get this published so government agencies and store owners could take note of this and see that they should be protecting their employees more.”

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This Weird COVID Symptom Could Last Five Months, Study Shows – Yahoo Canada Shine On

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This Weird COVID Symptom Could Last Five Months, Study Shows

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="A new analysis of COVID "long haulers" has found that they may have skin symptoms for months—including the strange phenomenon "COVID toes," which one man had for almost six months. The analysis looked at nearly 1,000 COVID patients from 39 countries. Patients reported a number of skin-related symptoms, and the average duration was 12 days. But some conditions lasted much longer. Read on to learn more, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had Coronavirus.” data-reactid=”19″>A new analysis of COVID “long haulers” has found that they may have skin symptoms for months—including the strange phenomenon “COVID toes,” which one man had for almost six months. The analysis looked at nearly 1,000 COVID patients from 39 countries. Patients reported a number of skin-related symptoms, and the average duration was 12 days. But some conditions lasted much longer. Read on to learn more, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had Coronavirus.

COVID Toes Could Last For Months

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content=""When we started looking at symptom duration, some of these patients are having really incredibly long-lasting symptoms," Dr. Esther Freeman, the principal investigator of the registry and the director of Global Health Dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, told NBC News. "In particular, we saw that with chilblains, also known as COVID toes, where they’ve been having skin symptoms for more than 60 days."” data-reactid=”21″>“When we started looking at symptom duration, some of these patients are having really incredibly long-lasting symptoms,” Dr. Esther Freeman, the principal investigator of the registry and the director of Global Health Dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, told NBC News. “In particular, we saw that with chilblains, also known as COVID toes, where they’ve been having skin symptoms for more than 60 days.”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="One patient had COVID toes for 130 days, and another had the condition for more than 150 days, the study said.&nbsp;” data-reactid=”22″>One patient had COVID toes for 130 days, and another had the condition for more than 150 days, the study said. 

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content=""They’ve had toe swelling and toe discoloration and toe pain for many months," said Freeman. "They’ve had this really kind of persistent inflammation."&nbsp;” data-reactid=”23″>“They’ve had toe swelling and toe discoloration and toe pain for many months,” said Freeman. “They’ve had this really kind of persistent inflammation.” 

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="RELATED: 11 Symptoms of COVID You Never Want to Get” data-reactid=”24″>RELATED: 11 Symptoms of COVID You Never Want to Get

Skin Symptoms a Common Sign of COVID

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Other studies have shown that up to 20% of people diagnosed with COVID-19 report skin changes as part of their illness, including a rash, hives or breakouts resembling chicken pox or the scaly plaques of psoriasis. When doctors noticed several patients reported a rash on their feet, "COVID toes" became a common term and a source of curiosity.&nbsp;” data-reactid=”26″>Other studies have shown that up to 20% of people diagnosed with COVID-19 report skin changes as part of their illness, including a rash, hives or breakouts resembling chicken pox or the scaly plaques of psoriasis. When doctors noticed several patients reported a rash on their feet, “COVID toes” became a common term and a source of curiosity. 

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Overall, COVID-related skin changes are so common that researchers behind the COVID Symptom Study say they should be considered a fourth key sign of COVID-19, along with fever, cough and loss of smell or taste.” data-reactid=”27″>Overall, COVID-related skin changes are so common that researchers behind the COVID Symptom Study say they should be considered a fourth key sign of COVID-19, along with fever, cough and loss of smell or taste.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The coronavirus has been observed to cause inflammation throughout the body, including in the lungs, heart and brain. COVID toes seem to be connected to this inflammatory process. "This data adds to our knowledge about how COVID-19 can affect multiple different organ systems, even after patients have recovered from their acute infection," said Freeman in a press release about the new study. "The skin can provide a visual window into inflammation that may be going on elsewhere in the body."” data-reactid=”28″>The coronavirus has been observed to cause inflammation throughout the body, including in the lungs, heart and brain. COVID toes seem to be connected to this inflammatory process. “This data adds to our knowledge about how COVID-19 can affect multiple different organ systems, even after patients have recovered from their acute infection,” said Freeman in a press release about the new study. “The skin can provide a visual window into inflammation that may be going on elsewhere in the body.”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="RELATED: Dr. Fauci Says You Don’t Have to Do This Anymore to Avoid COVID” data-reactid=”29″>RELATED: Dr. Fauci Says You Don’t Have to Do This Anymore to Avoid COVID

What to Do About COVID Toes

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="According to the American Academy of Dermatology, children, teenagers, and young adults are most likely to develop COVID toes. Many never develop other symptoms of COVID-19, and when they do, symptoms tend to be mild. Applying a hydrocortisone cream to the affected area can reduce pain or itching.” data-reactid=”31″>According to the American Academy of Dermatology, children, teenagers, and young adults are most likely to develop COVID toes. Many never develop other symptoms of COVID-19, and when they do, symptoms tend to be mild. Applying a hydrocortisone cream to the affected area can reduce pain or itching.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="If you experience any symptoms of COVID-19, including an unexplained skin rash, it’s best to contact your doctor for advice.&nbsp;” data-reactid=”32″>If you experience any symptoms of COVID-19, including an unexplained skin rash, it’s best to contact your doctor for advice. 

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="And do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.” data-reactid=”33″>And do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.

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AI can detect COVID-19 by listening to your coughs – Engadget

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It’s easy to be worried when you cough these days — is it COVID-19, or are you just clearing your throat? You might get a clearer answer soon. MIT researchers have developed AI that can recognize forced coughing from people who have COVID-19, even if they’re otherwise asymptomatic. The trick was to develop a slew of neural networks that can distinguish subtle changes indicative of the novel coronavirus’ effects.

One neural network detects sounds associated with vocal strength. Another listens for emotional states that reflect a neurological decline, such as increased frustration or a “flat affect.” A third network, meanwhile, gauges changes in respiratory performance. Throw in an algorithm that checks for muscular degradation (that is, weaker coughs) and it provides a more complete picture of someone’s health.

The AI is highly accurate in early tests. After the team trained its model on tens of thousands of cough and dialog samples, the technology recognized 98.5 percent of coughs from people with confirmed COVID-19 cases. It identified 100 percent of people who were ostensibly asymptomatic, too.

There are clear limits. The technology isn’t meant to diagnose symptomatic people, as they might have other conditions that produce similar behavior. And while it’s quite capable, you wouldn’t want to use this for a definitive verdict on whether or not you’re infected.

This isn’t a theoretical exercise, though. The scientists are developing a “user-friendly” app that could be used as a prescreening tool for the virus. You might only have to cough into your phone each day to determine if it’s safe for you to head outside. The researchers even suggest this could put an end to pandemics if the tool was always listening in the background, although that’s a big “if” when it would likely raise privacy issues.

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