Connect with us

Health

Elise Stolte: 'Kind of amazing' data should open doors for vaccinated care homes – Edmonton Journal

Published

 on


Article content

Infection rates among vulnerable care home residents who got the COVID-19 vaccine have plummeted in Alberta and at a rate that brings excitement and relief.

Now when will it lead to family reunions?

“It really is kind of amazing,” said infectious disease expert Lynora Saxinger Monday, after combing through Alberta Health Services’ data all weekend.

The vaccine is really working, she said. “Everyone is staring at data coming out of Israel so intently. We actually have that data right here.”

Late last week, a new study from Israel, which leads the world in vaccinations, suggests the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine isn’t just preventing symptoms of COVID-19. It prevented nine out of 10 infections and predicted the country could reach herd immunity by next month.

Alberta is far behind Israel in vaccinating most groups. But long-term care residents started getting vaccinated in December and nearly all of them now have their second shot.

Advertisement

Story continues below

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Deaths dropped off dramatically, especially from outbreaks. In February, only one person has so far died associated with a COVID-19 outbreak in a long-term care setting. That compares to more than 150 people in December, said Saxinger, who is a University of Alberta professor and member of the Government of Alberta’s scientific advisory panel.

Alberta used to see multiple outbreaks with more than 50 people testing positive at once in care homes across the province. Those issues have evaporated. The outbreaks that remain are smaller, and mostly in assisted living homes that have not yet been vaccinated.

Specifically for long-term care — residents in public, private or non-profit care who require 24-hour nursing support — the number of active cases dropped to just 63 Saturday, down from a high of 770 on Dec. 27.

The numbers are similar for designated supportive care, and there are now only four outbreaks with active cases in those homes.

But the obvious next question is when can visitors re-enter?

Health officials need to recognize that the burden from this pandemic is not equal. Some of those suffering the most are in care homes — not just because they’re getting sick and dying in higher numbers — but because isolating alone in a small room is very different than isolating with family in the community.

Vonnie Zupan was one of many who raised this issue with me through Groundwork, a pilot project in engagement journalism I’m running for the Edmonton Journal. She watches her father, Laurence Babiuk, pine for his wife of 66 years, who is cut off in a dementia care unit at Shepherd’s Care Kensington. “I think he’s only living right now to see my mom again.”

Advertisement

Story continues below

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Through a window, Zupan can see her mom also struggling. She’s depressed, gaining weight, losing her balance more often and struggling to find words. “She doesn’t always recognize me anymore,” she said.

Her father used to go regularly, even just to cuddle quietly on her bed, she said. Then he couldn’t give her a hug or even hold her hand for 11 months. Now her mom is fully vaccinated, but they’re still waiting for the OK to re-enter. It seems like “no one is allowed to go in there ever,” she said. “It breaks my heart. He just wants to hug her.”

At Monday’s COVID-19 update, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw recognized the progress made but could not say when care homes can ease visitor restrictions. “That’s something we continue to evaluate,” she said.

They want to see results globally on how well the vaccine prevents transmission, in addition to infection and symptomatic cases, she said. “Until we have better information on that we still need to maintain our current approach.”

I appreciate the caution. But I hope Hinshaw and the care home operators deciding how to implement the rules will not be overcautious, not when isolation is causing declines in speech and cognitive ability that residents may never get back.

Current provincial health rules allow up to two essential caregivers. But in December, Hinshaw issued a letter asking all caregivers to limit in-person care as much as possible. Indoor social visits are banned, whether in congregate care homes or in the community, and the way rules are implemented varies between homes and operators.

Advertisement

Story continues below

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Dr. Lynora Saxinger is an Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases for follow up story on Syphilis outbreak in Alberta on July 17, 2019. Photo by Shaughn Butts / Postmedia
Infectious disease expert Lynora Saxinger said plummeting COVID-19 infection rates among vulnerable care home residents who got the vaccine is welcome news. Photo by Shaughn Butts / Postmedia Photo by Shaughn Butts /Postmedia, file

Saxinger says scientists are still studying infection patterns to confirm that vaccination also prevents a person from picking up the virus and passing it on. But all the numbers she’s seeing so far suggest that’s “extremely unlikely” to be a significant issue. She and other science advisers are starting a formal evidence synthesis on that for Alberta Health.

In her view, the dramatic decrease in cases should be enough for health officials to cautiously lift restrictions in homes with a high percentage of vaccinated residents. Variant strains of COVID-19 are an issue. But so far, the variants identified in the province are ones the existing vaccine protects against.

Require masks and precautions but reopen, “as long as everyone realizes there’s no absolutes, that it’s all an odds game,” she said, stressing that families and residents should be involved in these decisions. “We’re getting into this realm where the risk versus benefit equation starts to look like there’s more risk for continued isolation.”

estolte@postmedia.com

twitter.com/estolte

Read our Guide to the Vaccine Rollout — written from questions by people like you.

This article is part of Groundwork, the Edmonton Journal’s pilot project in engagement journalism. Sign up for the mailing list and read more about it at edmontonjournal.com/groundwork.

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Health

Ontario reports 1,200+ coronavirus cases; 28 more deaths – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

Published

 on


Ontario reported 1,258 new cases of COVID-19 and 28 deaths on Friday, also marking the first day in four months where nobody in the long-term care system died of the disease.

Ontario reported 1,138 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 1,054 on Wednesday.

It’s the fourth straight day of increases in the province, as all but 3 of Ontario’s 34 public health units reopened non-essential retail, restaurants and fitness centres earlier this week.

The seven-day rolling average of cases now stands at 1,114, up from 1,098 on Thursday and 1,016 eight days ago.

The number of active cases rose for the second day in a row, to 10,294, still well below our January peak of more than 30,000 active infections.

All of the deaths reported on Friday occurred outside of the long-term care system, the first time that has happened in since Oct. 26. All long-term care residents in the province have received at least one dose of an approved coronavirus vaccine.

Across the GTA, there were 362 new cases in Toronto, 274 new cases in Peel, 104 new cases in York Region, 42 in Durham, 32 in Halton and 64 in Hamilton.

Provincial labs processed 64,049 specimens in the past 24 hours, generating a positivity rate of 2.3 per cent.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch told CP24 that Thursday’s modelling briefing, although cautiously optimistic, told us that things could still get drastically out of hand with our current daily case growth.

“It was a little more rosy, it does paint a little better picture, but we’re not out of the woods yet,” he said. “We’re still at 900-1,200 new cases per day here in Ontario, and if we do let our guard down, it will get out of control very quickly.”

Hospitalizations held flat according to official Ministry of Health statistics, which stated 683 people were in hospital, with 284 in intensive care and 193 breathing with the help of a ventilator.

But a Toronto ICU doctor citing Critical Care Services Ontario data said there were 333 patients with COVID-19 in intensive care across the province.

The number of variant of concern cases fully confirmed through whole genomic sequencing rose by 31 on Friday, to 477 B.1.1.7 cases, 14 B.1.351 cases and two P.1 cases.

Meanwhile, the province continues to ramp up its coronavirus vaccine rollout, with several public health units already scheduling or administering vaccines to people aged 80 or over living in the general community.

More than 21,000 doses were administered in the past 24 hours, increasing the provincial total of shots administered to 643,765.

More than 258,000 people have now completed their full two-dose inoculation.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Health

CPPIB CEO Mark Machin steps down after getting COVID-19 vaccine in UAE – Global News

Published

 on


Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) said on Friday Mark Machin had stepped down as CEO of the country’s largest pension fund after disclosing he recently traveled to the United Arab Emirates where he arranged to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

CPPIB said it had accepted Machin’s resignation and appointed John Graham as chief executive officer.

Read more:
Head of Canada Pension Plan board received COVID-19 vaccine in Dubai: reports

Canada’s Ministry of Finance on Thursday called a media report about Machin traveling to the Middle East and receiving a COVID-19 vaccination “very troubling”.

Machin was not immediately available for comment.

Machin, 54, received Pfizer’s vaccine shot after arriving in the UAE with his partner this month, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter.

Story continues below advertisement

Machin was named president and CEO in June 2016, according to the pension fund’s website.

(Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

© 2021 Reuters

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Health

‘Think small, think local’: B.C. health officials advise against big spring break plans – Global News

Published

 on


British Columbia’s top doctor is advising people not to make big plans for the upcoming March break as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose a threat.

Dr. Bonnie Henry says British Columbians will need to stay local during the annual pause from school. The province had previously indicated there would be encouragement to travel around the province if transmission numbers dropped.






1:45
Advice for what B.C. parents should do for March Break 2021?


Advice for what B.C. parents should do for March Break 2021?

“In terms of travel, right now as always, we need to stay local,” Henry said.

Story continues below advertisement

“And we’re going to be reassessing things as we move through the next weeks. And we will be talking more about March break and what we need to do in the coming days.”

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

Henry is pointing to the province’s rate of transmission, positivity rate and reproductive rate for why restrictions remain in place and why spring break travel is not being encouraged.

Read more:
B.C. ‘not quite there’ on easing restrictions, reports 395 COVID-19 cases, 10 deaths

The seven-day rolling average for new COVID-19 cases was an average of 481.4 cases a day on February 24, a steady climb from the 432.1 daily average reported a week earlier.

The test positivity rate has also gone up, although not as dramatically. Two weeks ago, 6.2 per cent of all COVID-19 tests in the province came back positive, going up to 6.6 per cent last week and sitting at 6.7 per cent now.


Click to play video 'What’s fueling the current spread of COVID-19 in B.C.?'



2:47
What’s fueling the current spread of COVID-19 in B.C.?


What’s fueling the current spread of COVID-19 in B.C.?

The province could not provide specifics on the reproductive number — a key metric for measuring whether the pandemic is under control. Henry says it is over one, which means for every COVID-19 case in the province it is passed on to more than one person.

Story continues below advertisement

“In the last two weeks, we started to see (the reproductive number) move above the level of one, and what that means is that there is potential for rapid growth if we are not careful,” Henry said.

“It is like a tree that keeps growing and spreading. But we need to keep the cases low and slow so that we can control that.”

B.C. is working with other provincial governments to determine some national policies around the spring break. The province is also looking at how it can support British Columbians, particularly young people, to have safe opportunities with friends during the break.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending