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Following reports of new variant, Hochul announces new steps for protection against COVID-19, as summer hospitalizations rise



Tue, Aug 29th 2023 04:20 pm

World-renowned Wadsworth Lab monitoring samples for new BA.2.86 Variant, not yet detected in New York

√ Department of Health contacted nursing home providers to remind them of ‘responsibility to keep residents protected’; state continues to make high-quality N-95 masks and test kits available to state and county officials by request

√ Hochul: All New Yorkers – especially those in high-risk groups – are encouraged to talk to their primary care doctor about updated COVID-19 vaccines coming this fall


Gov. Kathy Hochul has announced new steps the state of New York is taking to protect individuals from COVID-19 following reports of a new variant, BA.2.86. These steps come after COVID-19 hospitalizations in New York increased as the summer progressed. As a reminder, an updated COVID-19 vaccine tailored to guard against certain variants is expected to arrive in pharmacies and doctor’s offices this fall.

“While New Yorkers might want to be done with COVID-19, COVID-19 isn’t done with us,” Hochul said. “With the increase in hospitalizations and reported cases this summer, I strongly urge everyone to take appropriate precautions to protect themselves and their communities. To keep New Yorkers safe, my administration will continue to monitor this situation, share information on the new boosters as soon as it’s available, and continue to make N-95 masks available statewide.”

Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration advised vaccine manufactures to develop a new COVID-19 vaccine to target Omicron variants. The new shot is expected to be released by the three major COVID-19 vaccine producers in September. Hochul encourages New Yorkers to monitor the CDC and the New York State Department of Health (DOH) websites frequently for information on updated COVID-19 vaccine administration recommendations.

To protect all New Yorkers, DOH and the Wadsworth Center continue monitoring for and analyzing samples of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, as reports emerge of new strains.

Hochul’s team said, “The ongoing dual surveillance strategies of wastewater surveillance and laboratory clinical analysis, conducted with partners at Syracuse University and across the state, have proven vital to New York state’s ability to understand variant spread and the potential impact on public health.

“In response to identifying the new BA.2.86 variant, the Wadsworth Center immediately enhanced early detection efforts in New York state. In conjunction with the collaborators at Syracuse University, analysts searched wastewater data from the last six months to confirm the new strain was not detected in New York. This process will continue to be used to help monitor for the variant in new wastewater samples. Additionally, Wadsworth Center is coordinating with numerous health care professionals across the state and collaborating laboratories to expand the pool of clinical COVID samples submitted for analysis to increase the opportunity for detecting BA.2.86, should it enter the state.”

State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said, “The Department of Health remains vigilant for changes to the virus that could further threaten our public health. We continue to monitor as new strains have emerged, with a particular focus on BA.2.86, the most genetically different strain we have seen since the original Omicron variant. These significant changes are important to note as mutations may allow the virus to evade prior immunity. Remember, COVID is now a treatable disease, and tests are both easy and highly accurate. Antivirals such as Paxlovid are most effective when started within five days of the onset of symptoms.”

As students begin to return to school for the next academic year, Hochul and DOH recommend that schools review current CDC school guidance for COVID-19 prevention, and work with their local health department to implement effective and feasible public health measures.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the CDC recommends schools:

√ Promote vaccination and testing;

√ Encourage students, teachers and faculty to stay home if they are sick and exhibiting symptoms;

√ Optimize ventilation and maintain improvements to indoor air quality to reduce the risk of germs and contaminants spreading through the air; and

√ Teach and reinforce proper handwashing and hygiene practices.

Hochul’s team said, “Schools that experience outbreaks should work with their local health department for timely outbreak response support. More guidance for schools is available here.

“All individuals who have symptoms of COVID-19 should immediately get tested. If a test is positive, consult a health care provider about treatment, as it’s important to begin treatment soon after the onset of symptoms to ensure the utmost effectiveness. Individuals who do not have a regular health care provider can find locations for treatment here. Those with COVID-19 should follow CDC guidance to avoid transmitting it to others, including isolating for five days after the onset of symptoms, as well as masking and avoiding contact with those who may be at higher risk of negative outcomes.

“At-home tests are available at many local pharmacies statewide, and New York continues to make high-quality N-95 masks and test kits available to state and county officials by request. New Yorkers should contact their respective county health department or local emergency management office for more information.

“The New York State Department of Health recently contacted nursing home providers statewide to alert them of the increase in COVID-19 infections reported over the past several weeks, and to remind facilities of measures that can be taken to help reduce transmission among vulnerable populations.”

Individuals who have not yet been vaccinated or are behind on booster doses can find the current COVID-19 vaccine sites here.



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The Key Role of Trustworthy Babysitters in Balancing Work and Family Life




Are you a busy parent in constant pursuit of the elusive work-life balance? We know firsthand how overwhelming and challenging it can be to juggle professional commitments while still having quality time with your children.

That’s why we’re here to discuss an essential ingredient that unlocks the secret to harmony: trustworthy babysitters.

What Characteristics Parents Should Look for When Choosing a Babysitter?

Parents should look for a few key characteristics when choosing a babysitter. A good babysitter should be patient, responsible, and reliable. They should also be comfortable with children and have prior experience caring for them.

Besides, the babysitter must be able to communicate effectively and follow directions well. The babysitter should be someone the parents can trust to care for their children in their absence.


Strategies for Parents to Establish Reasonable Anticipations

As a parent, finding babysitters you can trust to care for your children is vital. However, it is also important to establish reasonable expectations for your babysitters.

Some tips for establishing reasonable expectations for babysitters include:

  1. Set clear expectations: Sit down with your babysitter to discuss bedtime routines, dietary preferences, and any necessary medications.
  2. Allow flexibility: While clarity is vital, also provide room for your babysitter to use their judgment and feel comfortable in their role.
  3. Trust their expertise: Once expectations are set, trust your babysitter’s judgment as a professional caregiver to avoid undermining their authority and creating discomfort in their role.

Determining a Fair Payment Plan

Determine your babysitting budget, factoring in your income and family size, while researching local rates. Account for the babysitter’s experience and qualifications, giving preference to those recommended by trusted sources.

Engage in open negotiations with your chosen babysitter. This aims to find a mutually agreeable arrangement that accommodates both your budget and their needs.

Tips on Finding Trustworthy and Compassionate Caregivers

When seeking a caregiver for your child, to ensure you find the right fit:

  • Seek recommendations from trusted sources such as friends, family, and neighbours who may have suggestions for caregivers in your area.
  • Conduct online research to review feedback and check references to gauge candidates’ qualifications and experience.
  • Request references and contact details from the caregivers’ previous employers or families they have worked with.
  • Trust your instincts and ensure you feel at ease with the caregiver, ensuring they are someone you can entrust with your child’s well-being.


Being able to trust your babysitter means you can have peace of mind knowing your child is safe and cared for.

Spending some time researching online reviews or asking friends and family for recommendations will help you find the perfect fit so you can feel more at ease while juggling work commitments in today’s hectic world.

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Facility-wide COVID-19 outbreak at Bethammi Nursing Home



THUNDER BAY — St. Joseph’s Care Group and the Thunder Bay District Health Unit have declared a facility-wide COVID-19 outbreak at Bethammi Nursing Home, part of the St. Joseph’s Heritage complex on Carrie Street near Red River Road.

The respiratory outbreak at the 112-bed facility was declared effective Sept. 15 but only announced publicly on Monday.

No details were provided with regard to the number of people affected to date.

Restrictions are now in place for admissions, transfers, discharges, social activities and visitation until further notice.




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Alberta COVID hospitalizations up 73% since July: health minister



Three weeks after the start of the school year, Alberta’s health minister provided an update on the spread of airborne viruses in the province.

Adriana LaGrange also said more information about flu and next-generation COVID-19 vaccines will soon be released.

“Now that we will be spending more time indoors, we need to make doubly sure we are following proper hygiene protocols like handwashing and staying home when sick,” LaGrange said. “It also means respecting those who choose to wear a mask.”


Global News previously reported that influenza vaccines will be available on Oct. 16 with the new Moderna vaccine formulated to target the XBB.1.5 variant likely to be available at around the same time. On Sept. 12, Health Canada approved the use of the Moderna vaccine.

“More information on immunizations against respiratory viruses including influenza and COVID-19 will be available shortly,” the health minister said.

LaGrange said there have been 28 cases of influenza and five lab-confirmed cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) since Aug. 28.

“This is consistent activity for this time of the year,” the health minister said in a statement.

The end of August or the beginning of September has typically marked the beginning of flu season for provincial health authorities.

LaGrange also provided an update on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the province.

From Aug. 28 to Sept. 8, there were a total 92 new hospitalizations and three ICU admissions, bringing the total to 417 in hospital and seven in ICU, a 73 per cent increase of COVID hospitalizations from the last reported info.

On July 24 – the last update to the province’s COVID data dashboard – there were only 242 in hospital.

“Sadly, five Albertans died during that period due to COVID-19,” LaGrange said.

LaGrange said the reporting dashboard is being refreshed to include RSV, influenza and COVID-19 data, work that was originally expected to be completed on Aug. 30. The latest data on the province’s influenza statistics dashboard is dated July 22.

“This work is currently underway and will be available in the coming weeks,” LaGrange said.

She said data for the dates between July 24 and Aug. 27 will be available when the new dashboard goes online.

Amid more hospitals continent-wide reinstating masking requirements in the face of increased hospitalizations, the health minister made no mention of any such moves for Alberta hospitals. Acute care COVID-19 outbreaks in Alberta jumped from Sept. 5 to 12, with 146 per cent more healthcare workers and 55 per cent more patients testing positive for COVID.

LaGrange stressed the “collective responsibility” to prevent the spread of airborne viruses like COVID and influenza.

“As a mother and grandmother, I understand the anxiety that comes with sending your children back to school. I want to reassure you that Alberta’s government has the health and well-being of all young Albertans top of mind,” the health minister said.

–with files from Meghan Cobb, Global News



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