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COVID Alert app nears 3 million users, but only 514 positive test reports

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OTTAWA —
New numbers out of the Public Health Agency of Canada show only a gradual increase of downloads of Canada’s COVID-19 exposure notification app since the start of the month, while the number of Canadians using the tool to report their positive test remains low.

The organization told CTVNews.ca on Tuesday that the app has been downloaded 2.94 million times since July 31, however, only 514 users, all of whom are located in Ontario, have actually notified the app about their positive test results, despite the province having recorded more than 9,000 cases since the app came into effect. This is up from about 2.2 million downloads and 100 test disclosures in the first active month.

The new statistics come as politicians once again ramp up calls for Canadians to download the software amid climbing case counts nationwide.

After weeks of relative quiet about the use of COVID Alert, it got two prominent mentions last Wednesday during the much-anticipated Liberal throne speech and then again during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s address to the nation later than evening.

“We’ve got the COVID Alert app. Take the teacher who felt fine, but he gets a positive after the app warned her she’d been exposed. COVID Alert meant she went home instead of the classroom. It’s a powerful, free tool that’s easy to use and protects your privacy. So if you haven’t already, download it off the App Store or Google Play,” said Trudeau.

COVID Alert allows users to disclose a positive coronavirus test and alerts anyone who has come close to that person within 14 days via Bluetooth tracking. Public health officials have stressed that it does not track location and has no way of knowing an individual’s location, address, contacts, or health information.

A spokesperson within the prime minister’s office told CTVNews.ca downloads of the app spiked immediately following his public address. Numbers show there were at least 100,000 downloads by Apple and Android users during the hour following.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc, Health Minister Patty Hajdu, and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam echoed Trudeau’s remarks on Tuesday during a public health update.

“Please download the COVID-19 Alert app and join the three million Canadians that have done so to date,” said Hajdu.

Tam also pointed to another online tool dubbed “COVID Trends” released by the Public Health Agency of Canada, which “provides [users] with a number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in your area within the last 14 days.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford made an urgent plea for Ontarians to download COVID Alert on Monday when the province reported 700 new cases, the highest daily infections ever recorded.

Ontario was the first province to embrace the software in late July but since then, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Saskatchewan have all adopted the technology.

Questions still linger though about whether the app is achieving its intended goal of breaking “the cycle of infection.”

EXPERT OPINION

A July report in the Harvard Business Review argues that when adoption is voluntary, “contact-tracing apps present the classic chicken-and-egg — or “cold start” — problem experienced by any platform seeking strong network effects: They have virtually no value until they reach a critical mass of users.”

The solution goes beyond design features and marketing tactics, the authors state, but relies instead on localized uptake followed by national implementation.

“The contact-tracing app should be designed so it is instantly valuable to anyone in the targeted community who downloads it…One way to make the app instantly valuable is for it to provide information on local contagion so users know the risks. Another is to include a symptoms-tracking function so users can enter their symptoms and be told when to seek medical help.”

University of Waterloo Professor Plinio Mortia, who heads up the Ubiquitous Health Technology Lab, echoed the need for user customization.

“It’s one of the principles of persuasion design, that tailoring of the solution to the specific user. We’re trying to make an app that will be downloaded by 35 million people across Canada, but we’re being very generic to target everybody, which is not always the best solution,” he said, adding that there’s a key talking point missing from public health directives about the app: motivation.

“They need to tell the public why they should be doing this, why it’s important, why [Canadians] need to download it beyond the fact that it’s safe,” he said. “They still haven’t told people what the real impact having the app on your phone and reporting a COVID-19 diagnosis will have on the population.”

Blayne Haggart, associate professor at the department of political science at Brock University, who’s written extensively about technology use in public policy settings, argues the federal government’s messaging has been misguided.

“For a health policy intervention, you would think you would start with saying ‘this is going to have a great effect on you know, boosting the economy, or stopping a pandemic in this way’ but instead everyone was talking about it in terms of its privacy,” he said.

“That’s not a healthy way to design any kind of government policy.”

Haggart says while privacy is important, effectiveness is equally as vital.

At the time of publication, government officials had not yet responded to a CTVNews.ca inquiry about whether they had identified a threshold to measure success or failure of adoption and the impact of those results on public health.

“This is a general issue with technology and tech design when it’s put into the public policy sphere. It’s not considered in its full context,” said Haggart.

Manitoba and Quebec have also indicated they too will introduce COVID Alert into their regions. LeBlanc said the government is committed to working with and supporting provinces in their contact-tracing capabilities.

“Our government is actively working with other provinces and territories and [the app] will be rolled out to more Canadians very shortly, and I encourage everyone to download it,” he said.

Source:- CTV News

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5 video games for kids to while away the fall hours – that parents might like, too – Humboldt Journal

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With winter weather approaching and our social options limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic, kids and teenagers might be tempted to fill their free time playing video games.

Here are five games released in 2020 that parents might be comfortable letting their kids play as they while away the hours this fall.

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MARIO KART LIVE: HOME CIRCUIT

Platforms: Nintendo Switch

ESRB Rating: E (everyone)

Suggested Retail Price: $129.99

The anticipated latest entry into Nintendo’s “Mario Kart” series literally takes the action into your house.

The “Mario Kart Live” kit comes with a real toy kart (Mario and Luigi are the characters currently available) mounted with a camera.

Players use the Switch to drive the cart around the house to create a racetrack. Once finished, players can race on the track in the game.

The “augmented reality” mix of real-world and virtual environments gives creative players a wealth of tools at their disposal to make challenging tracks. Standard Mario Kart elements such as items to boost speed or obstacles to impede karts can be mixed with everyday household items used as ramps or obstacles.

What’s more, the game is free of some of the limitations of similar toys like slot-car racetracks. Setup and takedown is a breeze, as the only items that needed to be placed on the floor is four gates for the kart to drive through.

There are, however, a couple of potential drawbacks.

To get the most out of “Mario Kart: Home Circuit,” you will need a large, well-lit space. It’s possible to make smaller tracks for more compact areas, but the scope of what you can do will be limited.

Also, multiplayer presents some problems. The game supports up to four players on a track, but each must have their own kart and Switch console. There is no online multiplayer option.

Not only can multiplayer be costly, but the pandemic makes it difficult to meet in the same space to race against someone not in your social bubble.

Still, as both a collectible and a game, there’s little doubt that this will be high on the wish list for any Mario Kart fan. Those with the space and the desire to create increasingly devious tracks should find enough replay value in the title for months to come.

ANIMAL CROSSING: NEW HORIZONS

Platforms: Nintendo Switch

ESRB Rating: E (everyone)

Suggested Retail Price: $79.99

The latest instalment of the popular “Animal Crossing” game was released in March, just as households across the country were preparing for the lockdown in response to the spreading pandemic.

The lighthearted nature of the game, which tasks you with developing an island paradise for your anthropomorphic animal buddies, was a welcome contrast to the uncertainty of the time.

The charming title has grown since then, with Nintendo releasing a number of free updates to keep the game fresh.

The recently released fall update includes Halloween-themed costumes to wear and decorations to place around the island, giving players several creative options to make their habitat suitably spooky.

With a Thanksgiving/Christmas themed update announced for sometime next month, “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” gives gamers of all ages a lot of bang for their buck.

ORI AND THE WILL OF THE WISPS

Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

ESRB Rating: E (everyone)

Suggested Retail Price: $39.99

An action/adventure game in the style of the Nintendo classic “Metroid”, “Ori and the Will of the Wisps” game sees the light spirit Ori navigate a forest full of wondrous sights and treacherous traps in a mission to rescue a friend, and heal the land in the process.

The latest Ori adventure boasts beautiful art direction, clever level design and an empathetic tone that should resonate with younger players.

Some of the combat and puzzles could be challenging for inexperienced gamers, though that could be remedied by playing on an easier difficulty setting.

The sequel to the indie hit “Ori and the Blind Forest” received strong reviews for its gameplay and story when it was originally released for the Xbox One and Windows earlier this year. A version for the Switch was released last month.

NHL 21

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One,

ESRB Rating: E 10+ (Recommended for gamers 10 and over)

Suggested Retail Price: $79.99

With the 2020 Stanley Cup already awarded to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the NHL’s Edmonton bubble, and the next season delayed until at least the beginning of January, “NHL 21” might help fill the hockey void.

“NHL 21” lets you lead your favourite hockey team to glory, or you can create your own player and take the journey from promising prospect to all-star.

Players can compete online against others, so friends can match skills while staying in a safe environment. Parents may want to monitor if their kids play online against strangers.

EA Sports releases a new game in its NHL franchise every year, and there is often not a lot to differentiate the titles on a year-to-year basis. If you have a recent NHL title, you may want to direct your entertainment budget elsewhere.

If you haven’t bought an NHL title in a while, or are looking to pick up your first game in the series, then “NHL 21” is a way to scratch the hockey itch while the pro leagues are on hiatus and minor programs are suspended.

MARVEL’S AVENGERS

Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, PS4, Google Stadia

ESRB Rating: T (Teen)

Suggested Retail Price: $79.99

It’s fair to say “Marvel’s Avengers” didn’t quite live up to its heroic hype when it was released last month.

Reviews were mixed, with praise for its short but excellent single-player campaign and a lukewarm reception for its directionless online component.

Still, superheroes are pop culture dynamos, and there is enough here for fans of Captain America, Iron Man and Black Widow to enjoy.

Combat is fast and furious, and each of the six currently available Avengers have their own play style. Rampaging into a horde of the enemies with the Hulk or lighting them up with Thor’s hammer feels right.

While the Avengers are a force for good, the violence might be intense for very young gamers. Teen players who are into superheroes, however, will find a relatable protagonist in the delightful Kamala Khan, otherwise known as Ms. Marvel.

“Marvel’s Avengers” might currently be a bit thin on content for those who aren’t big fans of the genre, but that might change. The game’s developers have beefed up the multiplayer since launch, and new characters are on the way, with the Kate Bishop version of Hawkeye expected in the coming weeks.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 23, 2020.

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Let's encrypt the fund building an HTTP back-end based on Hyper (Rust) – The Market Mail

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If we have read in recent times that the famous tool for requesting in many protocols is being rewritten with the language created by the Mozilla Foundation, it is not.

Daniel Steinberg has clearly detailed it on his blog. The base libcurl library is written in C and will remain so. Even though the language has its own problems and weaknesses are sometimes detected, none has been significant and their numbers are decreasing.

Above all, this software brick found in millions of machines worldwide is known for, stable and appreciated. A full port would be a pharaonic job, even before Google eventually recalled Steinberg.

However, the design of CURL is flexible. It can be compiled with different back-ends, 33 to be precise. Each can be used to support a particular protocol, with its advantages and disadvantages.


The announcement made a few days ago is about the creation of a new back-end for HTTP requests. It will use Hyper, a library used in Rust, a language considered “memory safe”, because of its design and its specialized memory management.

This back-end, which will support both HTTP / 1 and HTTP / 2, will support quiche and Mesalink, already supported as well as written in Rust. Its construction was funded by ISRG, the organization behind Let’s Encrypt N.

Steinberg says the job will take time. Hyper does not yet have an API that allows it to communicate with code written in C, its development is underway. Only after this step can the actual design of the new back-end begin.

A dedicated branch has been created on the CURL GitHub repository. No date has been given yet on the outcome of the project.


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Fitness: Exercise is a golden opportunity for older adults – Sarnia and Lambton County This Week

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But does age warrant a new set of guidelines?

It used to be that the golden years were all about putting your feet up and taking it easy. But that was before exercise was linked to a reduced risk of chronic disease and increased longevity. Being physically active is now considered a vital component of a long and healthy life, and is especially important for older adults, including those who have yet to jump on the exercise bandwagon.

But there’s no clear consensus as to what type of physical activity is best suited for older populations looking to take advantage of all that exercise has to offer. Is the non-age-specific recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week the best option? Or are there workout routines that offer better results for older exercisers?

A team of researchers set out to get answers by comparing the long- and short-term results of three exercise routines on a large group of Norwegians aged 70 to 77, divided into three groups. The control group (780 people) was asked to follow the national guidelines for physical activity, which in Norway call for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. The second group (387 people) swapped out two days of the general 30-minute workouts for 50 continuous minutes of exercise performed at an intensity equivalent to 70 per cent of their maximum heart rate. The third group (400 people) was also asked to swap out two days a week of the 30-minute workouts, but their routine consisted of four high-intensity intervals of four minutes performed at 90 per cent of their maximum heart rate. Fitness and health data for all three groups, whose average age was 72.8, was collected at the start of the study and again one, three and five years later.

To ensure the two non-control groups stayed on target, they met regularly with professionals who supervised workouts designed to ensure participants exercised in the appropriate training zone, with intensity measured by heart rate monitors and ratings of perceived exertion. Adherence to the exercise routine was analyzed through self-reporting, with anyone who participated in less than 50 per cent of the workouts considered to be non-compliant. At the end of the study, two physicians analyzed the medical data of all three groups, including any deaths, without knowing which exercise routine they followed.

The researchers anticipated that the two groups that exceeded the national recommendations for physical activity would realize an added boost of longevity, but there were no differences in the mortality rate between those who followed the 30-minute general routine and those who didn’t. There was, however, a slight boost in longevity among the high-intensity interval group when compared to the exercisers who performed 50 minutes of continuous moderate-intensity exercise.

The researchers aren’t sure why their hypothesis wasn’t realized, but suspect it had something to do with the overall good health of the study subjects. A whopping 80 per cent reported a medium or high level of physical activity at the start of the study, which suggests that exercise was already contributing to their overall health and longevity. Another finding to consider is that 47 per cent of the exercisers doing the high-intensity interval training stuck with it to the end of the study, compared to the 69 per cent of the controls who kept up their routine for the full five years.

“Participants in the control group did not receive supervised exercise, yet exercised at relatively high levels throughout the five years,” said the researchers.

Another unexpected finding is that peak oxygen uptake, a measure of cardiovascular fitness, showed no age-related decline over the course of the study. This is good news for older exercisers, as a decline in peak oxygen uptake is typical in this age group and is associated with an increased risk of premature death and coronary heart disease.

The bottom line is that there are a number of options for older adults who want to reap all the health benefits physical activity has to offer. It’s also clear that for active older adults, judging the effectiveness of a workout by its length or intensity isn’t a good practice.

“The central implication is that either shorter-duration vigorous physical activity or longer-duration moderate physical activity or a combination of the two, that amount to the same amount of work each week, will have the same favourable health outcomes, with vigorous physical activity being the time-efficient alternative,” stated the researchers.

So go ahead and pick the workout of your choice — or better yet, mix it up between all three routines featured in this study. For older adults, not only does exercise have the potential to mitigate several of the negative health conditions associated with aging, it can truly make the latter decades of life golden.

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