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Does COVID-19 cause long-term damage to your body? Your COVID-19 questions answered – CBC.ca

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We’re breaking down what you need to know about the pandemic by answering your questions. You can send us your questions via email at COVID@cbc.ca and we’ll answer as many as we can. We’ll publish a selection of answers every weekday on our website and we’re also putting some of your questions to the experts on the air during The National and News Network. So far, we’ve received more than 40,000 emails from all corners of the country. 

What are the long-term effects of a COVID-19 infection? Can your lungs be damaged permanently from the disease?

Researchers say COVID-19 is so dangerous because it invades our respiratory cells and triggers an immune system response that targets those infected cells, destroys lung tissue and ultimately clogs our airways, cutting off our oxygen supply. 

The Campbell family wrote to us asking if COVID-19 can lead to long-term damage to a person’s body — specifically, their lungs. 

“The answer is likely yes,” said Dr. Samir Gupta, a respirologist at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

The level of damage will depend on the severity of the infection and how it progresses in each person. 

“For people with mild infections, we are unlikely to see any long-term consequences,” Gupta said. “The concern is in people who will develop pneumonia with this infection, and particularly those who will end up on a ventilator in the ICU.”

The problem, Gupta said, is that there is “very little” information on COVID so far — so doctors are basing their knowledge on similar infections. 

“This infection does seem to cause a lot of scarring in the lungs, and if we extrapolate from what we know of other infections that can also lead to pneumonia and ventilator use, [COVID-19] is likely to cause some permanent loss in lung function and some permanent decline in functional capacity, with symptoms like permanent shortness of breath.”

In severe cases, sometimes the treatment can also cause damage. 

When someone has severe pneumonia, for example, their lungs aren’t able to do their job of getting oxygen in and carbon dioxide waste out. In such cases, a mechanical ventilator may be used to perform these functions until the patient recovers. 

Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Alberta, said ventilators themselves can damage the lungs.

“If someone has been critically ill with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), on a ventilator, regardless of the cause, there are a number of issues,” she said.

Saxinger said lung function decline, loss of muscle mass and even post-traumatic stress disorder are possible. 

“Some people end up with long-term decreased stamina … even five years out.”

In short, doctors don’t yet know if the recovery from COVID-19 is different from any other severe lung infections, but it appears that mild and moderate cases can recover well.

Researchers are also looking at how the kidneys and the heart may be at particular risk due to a heightened immune system response.

Is it safe to have an operation while COVID-19 is being treated in the same hospital?

Most provinces in Canada have already begun their reopening stages. Part of that includes resuming surgeries, and Mark G. is wondering if it would be safe to have an operation done in a hospital that is simultaneously treating COVID-19. 

We spoke to some emergency department (ER) doctors who said, for the most part, patients shouldn’t worry.

Right now, there are still some emergency surgeries taking place despite most hospitals treating COVID-19 patients, explained Dr. Alan Drummond, an ER physician in Perth, Ont.

“Emergency surgeries and cancer or cardiovascular surgeries that can’t be delayed have been ongoing,” he said. “These are being done under very strict protective guidelines to minimize the risk of transmission. So if you absolutely need surgery, there should be no concern.” 

“Hospital wards have been restructured to place COVID-19[-positive] patients at a safe distance from non-COVID patients,” said Drummond. 

Dr. Brian Goldman, ER doctor and host of the CBC podcast The Dose, said it’s “unusual for patients to get infected” with the virus while in the hospital.

“Hospital [staff] are well trained and equipped to handle patients infected with the coronavirus,” he said. 

Even with hospitals that have experienced “outbreaks,” patients should understand these are not on the same scale as long-term care homes, for example.

“An outbreak may be as few as two to three people infected,” said Goldman. “It does not mean that there is widespread transmission of the virus in the hospital.”

Some provinces, including B.C., have designated COVID-primary sites with specific units treating COVID-19 patients. 

“This means all COVID[-19] patients are cared for within these sites in their designated units,” a spokesperson for B.C.’s Ministry of Health said. 

Goldman thinks it’s a good idea.

“In order to accelerate the treatment of patients waiting for delayed surgeries due to COVID, it might make sense to have COVID-only and non-COVID hospitals to simplify the need for infection control.”

Ontario released its comprehensive framework last week to help hospitals assess their readiness for resuming scheduled surgeries and procedures. But a spokesperson for the minister of health, Christine Elliott, said this framework “does not contemplate COVID-19-only hospitals.”

Do I need to isolate when I get back from the hospital?

This question comes from Gohar F., who recently went to the ER and was wondering if she is required to isolate when she returns home.

The two ER doctors we asked agreed there’s no reason to isolate when you return from the hospital; however, there are a few exceptions.

Goldman said you won’t need to isolate unless your visit to the hospital included coming into close contact with a patient who has a known or suspected case of COVID-19, or you were “contacted by Public Health because they are tracing contact of a person known to be infected with COVID-19.”

You’d also need to self-isolate if your visit to the hospital was for the purpose of being tested for the virus, Goldman said.

If you have been swabbed and are awaiting results, Drummond said you should isolate until you know whether you are positive or not. 

“Thankfully, the turnaround time for diagnostic tests has improved dramatically since the pandemic started,” he said.

When it comes to patient safety in the hospital, staff are being extra cautious, wearing all the proper personal protective equipment and implementing strict isolation measures for COVID-19 patients.

Doctors say you shouldn’t let fear of COVID-19 keep you from going to the ER if you have real concerns.

We’re also answering your questions every night on The National. Last night your questions included: What kind of non-medical masks should people wear? Watch below:

An emergency room doctor answers viewer questions about the COVID-19 pandemic including what kind of non-medical mask people should wear. 2:46

Tuesday we answered questions about cleaning services and blowing bubbles

Keep your questions coming by emailing us at COVID@cbc.ca.

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SpaceX's Starship rocket prototype explodes on Texas test pad – Windsor Star

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A prototype of SpaceX’s upcoming heavy-lift rocket, Starship, exploded on Friday during ground tests in south Texas as Elon Musk’s space company pursued an aggressive development schedule to fly the launch vehicle for the first time.

The testing explosion was unrelated to SpaceX’s upcoming launch of two NASA astronauts from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center using a different rocket system, the Falcon 9 with the Crew Dragon capsule fixed on top.

A prototype vanished in an explosive fireball at SpaceX’s Boca Chica test site on Friday, as seen in a livestream recorded by the website NASA Spaceflight. There was no immediate indication of injuries. SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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What Time Is the SpaceX Launch? How to Watch – The New York Times

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On Saturday, for the first time since the retirement of the space shuttles in July 2011, NASA astronauts are scheduled to blast off from American soil on an American rocket to the International Space Station. In contrast to astronaut launches in the past when NASA ran the show, this time a private company, SpaceX, will be in charge of mission control. The company, founded by Elon Musk, built the Falcon 9 rocket and the capsule, Crew Dragon, which the two astronauts will travel in.

The mission is scheduled to lift off at 3:22 p.m. Eastern time from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Coverage of the launch on NASA Television will begin at 11 a.m. The Times will provide live video of the launch.

The first attempt to launch, on Wednesday, was called off about 15 minutes before it was to occur because the weather wasn’t playing nice. SpaceX’s launch directors deemed the risk of lightning and other weather hazards too high to allow the astronauts to lift off safely.

The weather officers said that they expected conditions to clear up about 10 minutes after the scheduled launch time. But in order for the capsule to catch the space station at the right moment the next day, the launch had to go off at the precise time of 4:33 p.m. Eastern time.

Credit…Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

Not the most promising. Weather forecasts currently give a 50 percent chance of favorable conditions at the launch site. The next opportunity on Sunday is slightly better, with a 60 percent chance of favorable conditions.

Lifting off in bad weather can be catastrophic to rockets. During the countdown, about 10 members of the 45th Weather Squadron, part of the United States Space Force, keep a close eye on conditions to see if they fall within predetermined launch criteria. If the weather conditions violate the criteria, SpaceX’s launch director will call off the launch.

The launch has to occur at a precise moment to allow the Crew Dragon to meet up with the space station, and there is no leeway for delays.

For the safety of the crew, the launch team also has to consider weather and ocean conditions just off the coast, where the capsule would splash down if there were an emergency on the launchpad or farther away in the Atlantic if a problem occurred on the way to orbit.

Credit…John Raoux/Associated Press

The astronauts are Robert L. Behnken and Douglas G. Hurley, who have been friends and colleagues since both were selected by NASA to be astronauts in 2000.

They both have backgrounds as military test pilots and have each flown twice previously on space shuttle missions, although this is the first time they have worked together on a mission. Mr. Hurley flew on the space shuttle’s final mission in 2011.

In 2015, they were among the astronauts chosen to work with Boeing and SpaceX on the commercial space vehicles that the companies were developing. In 2018, they were assigned to the first SpaceX flight.

SpaceX has never taken people to space before. Its Crew Dragon is a gumdrop-shaped capsule — an upgraded version of SpaceX’s original Dragon capsule, which has been used many times to carry cargo, but not people, to the space station.

Crew Dragon has space for up to seven people but will have only four seats for NASA missions. If this launch succeeds, it will ferry four astronauts to the space station later in the year.

The Crew Dragon is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station 19 hours after launch on Sunday, at about 10:30 a.m. Eastern time. During their trip, the astronauts will test to test how the spacecraft flies and verify that the systems are performing as designed. Unless something goes wrong, the Crew Dragon’s computers usually handle all of the maneuvering and docking procedures.

The astronauts also said they planned to test out the capsule’s toilet.

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SpaceX’s Starship SN4 launch vehicle prototype explodes after static engine fire test – TechCrunch

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SpaceX had just conducted yet another static fire test of the Raptor engine in its Starship SN4 prototype launch vehicle on Friday when the test vehicle exploded on the test stand in Boca Chica, Texas. This was the fourth static fire test of this engine on this prototype, so it’s unclear what went wrong versus other static fire attempts.

This was a test in the development of Starship, a new spacecraft that SpaceX has been developing in Boca Chica. Eventually, the company hopes to use it to replace its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rocket, but Starship is still very early in its development phase, whereas those vehicles are flight-proven, multiple times over.

SpaceX had just secured FAA approval to fly its Starship prototype for short, suborbital test flights. The goal was to fly this SN4 prototype for short distances following static fire testing, but that clearly won’t be possible now, as the vehicle appears to have been completely destroyed in the explosion following Friday’s test, as you can see below in the stream from NASASpaceflight.com.

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The explosion occurred around 1:49 PM local time in Texas, roughly two minutes after it had completed its engine test fire. We’ve reached out to SpaceX to find out more about the cause of today’s incident, and whether anyone was hurt in the explosion. SpaceX typically takes plenty of safety precautions when running these tests, including ensuring the area is well clear of any personnel or other individuals.

This isn’t the first time one of SpaceX’s Starship prototypes has met a catastrophic end; a couple of previous test vehicles succumbed to pressure testing while being put through their paces. This is why space companies test frequently and stress test vehicles during development — to ensure that the final operational vehicles are incredibly safe and reliable when they need to be.

SpaceX is already working on additional prototypes, including assembling SN5 nearby in Boca Chica, so it’s likely to resume its testing program quickly once it can clear the test stand and move in the newest prototype. This is a completely separate endeavor from SpaceX’s work on the Commercial Crew program, so that historic first test launch with astronauts on board should proceed either Saturday or Sunday as planned, depending on weather.

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