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Good morning, Greater Sudbury! Here are a few stories to start your day – Sudbury.com

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Good morning, Greater Sudbury! Here are a few stories to start your day on this Saturday morning.

Rising case counts see Public Health Sudbury reinstate work-from-home rule as of Monday

Saying local COVID-19 case rates remain “unacceptably high,” Public Health Sudbury & Districts is reinstating work-from-home requirements as of Monday. Continued high COVID-19 case rates mean that the Public Health Sudbury & Districts area is among the top three most affected jurisdictions in Ontario, said a press release issued Friday. Local protective measures, including a reinstatement of capacity limits first issued on Nov. 8, have suppressed rapid growth in cases; however, case rates remain unacceptably high, threatening health and the health system, in-person learning, and local transition to a “reopened” community, said the health unit. PHSD said it is announcing “a measured and responsible approach to the current situation.” The medical officer of health is reinstating work-from-home requirements, revoked by the province on July 15, issuing strong recommendations for COVID-19 protections to area schools, businesses, and organizations, and enacting stricter measures for the follow up of contacts of cases of COVID-19. “We have carefully reviewed recent data and consulted with the province’s chief medical officer of health,” said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Medical Officer of Health with Public Health Sudbury & Districts. “Although school-based cases and household spread are currently driving our continued high case counts, cases continue to be reported among young adults, social settings, and workplaces. It is hard to find a setting that is not impacted. “With the widespread circulation of the virus in our community, our response also needs to be widespread, reducing mobility and face-to-face interactions overall. This is the purpose of the work-from-home Instructions. Further, every sector needs to do their part, voluntarily at this time, to pave the path to lower case rates and re-opening.” You can read the full Letter of Instruction here.

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Variant prompts ban on travellers from southern Africa

Canada has banned visitors from southern Africa after the discovery of a new variant of concern in the region. The new variant, deemed Omicron, first emerged in South Africa and coincided with a steep rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in that region in recent weeks, according to the World Health Organization. The ban will apply to foreign nationals who transited through a list of seven countries in the last 14 days, including South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Namibia and eSwatini. Global Affairs is also issuing an advisory to discourage non-essential travel to South Africa and neighbouring countries. “We know very little about this variant right now,” Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said at a briefing Friday. The mutations that have been detected show the potential for greater transmissibility, she said, and she won’t be surprised to see cases crop up in Canada. “This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning,” the WHO wrote in a statement Friday. “Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other (variants of concern.)”

Read the full story here.

Sudbury leads Ontario in opioid death rates, but Ford’s more interested in a GTA road, Bigger says

When it comes to Greater Sudbury’s homelessness and opioid crises, neither Premier Doug Ford nor Health Minister Christine Elliott are picking up the phone. This, Mayor Brian Bigger said, has him feeling “ghosted.” “He refuses to talk and his ministers refuse to respond or provide funding that we need in our community,” he said. “This is really a sad state when there is no response.” Earlier this week, Bigger penned an open letter to the premier in which he requests the province’s support and affirms that he’s available to discuss matters at any time. “This is about the City of Greater Sudbury having the highest per-capita (opioid) death rate in the province … and not even getting the courtesy of a callback from the minister of health,” he told Sudbury.com. It’s not as though there isn’t any money available, Bigger said, noting that the province managed to find $6 billion to spend on Highway 413 in the Greater Toronto Area. “That’s just not acceptable,” he said, adding that the city has been pushing for the province’s help for the past two years. 

Read the full story here.

Sudbury names new economic development lead

Sudbury has a new economic development lead. Meredith Armstrong, who has had a long tenure with the city, moved into the role of director of economic development, effective Nov. 19. She replaces Brett Williamson, who has left the position for a new opportunity outside the organization. “With her unique achievements and her well-established relationship with the Greater Sudbury Development Corporation (GSDC) board, Ms. Armstrong embodies all the qualities needed to continue to support the work of the GSDC board in her new role as director,” said Lisa Demmer, GSDC board chair, in a Nov. 25 news release. “I want to thank Mr. Williamson for his efforts and dedication as we worked together to position Greater Sudbury for ongoing economic recovery and success amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. I wish him all the best in the future.”

Read the full story here.

Salvation Army Christmas Kettles now in place around Sudbury

Salvation Army volunteers are back beside their kettles, and this year offering a chance to “tap” your donation to keep everyone safe.  The kettles are in place across Sudbury and will be until December 10, and this year feature $5, $10, and $20 “taps” so that you can use your debit card, credit card or Google/Apple pay features to donate to the Salvation Army. The kettles will also be in place for cash donations at locations across Sudbury. Donations go to the Salvation Army food bank, and to fill out their annual Christmas Hampers. This year, they have 600 families signed up to receive a hamper filled with the makings of a Christmas dinner, including a turkey, as well as toys for any children. Their fundraising goal this year is $220,000 to cover the community’s needs. All of the money will stay in and be used to help people in Sudbury. They are still in desperate need of volunteers, however. Lyn Mullen of the Salvation Army told Sudbury.com that each year, there are 1,000 volunteer shifts to fill. “That’s a two hour shift, five times a day, at six locations until December,” said Mullen. “All the money stays in Sudbury and is used for all our family services, which includes our food bank and our Christmas hampers.” If you would like to volunteer and are double vaccinated, you can contact the Salvation Army at their email address, sudburykettlecampaign@gmail.com, or at 705-673-5893 ext. 203.

Read the full story here.

Ontario still in fourth virus wave, likely to continue through winter, top doc says

Ontario’s rising COVID-19 infection curve is a continuation of the fourth wave that started earlier in September, and not the start of a fifth wave, the province’s top doctor said Thursday as he warned that the upward trend would continue. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore said case counts never got back to a low level despite a slight dip before steadily increasing again in late October. “We never declared the fourth wave over, this is simply a continuance,” Moore told reporters. “Sadly, all modelling would predict this would slowly, steadily rise and increase over the coming months, including January and February.” He said higher case counts were anticipated as people moved indoors in the cold weather, and asked people to remain cautious until the weather warms up in the spring and more people become eligible for third vaccine doses to protect against the “formidable foe” of COVID-19. “It just continues to want to spread and it won’t slow down again until we get outdoors in the springtime,” he said. “We do have a time period over the next four months that we’ll have to continue to be very, very vigilant.”

Read the full story here.

Winter weather will stick around this weekend

Expect a sunny day for your Saturday with winds of 15 km/h and a high of -9. That wind will mean a wind chill of -20 this morning and -12 this afternoon. The UV index today is one, or low. Tonight, expect increasing cloudiness and a low of -11. For Sunday, expect cloudy skies and slightly warmer temperatures. The afternoon temperature is expected to hit -6, with a 60-per-cent chance of flurries. Sunday night, the clouds will stick around and there is a 30-per-cent chance of flurries and a low of -10.

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Pfizer, Moderna shots safe during in vitro fertilization; healthy gut bacteria may help prevent long COVID

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The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that has yet to be certified by peer review.

mRNA vaccines safe during in vitro fertilization

COVID-19 vaccines using mRNA technology do not affect fertility outcomes during in-vitro fertilization (IVF), researchers have found.

They compared rates of fertilization, pregnancy, and early miscarriage in IVF patients who had received two doses of the vaccines from Pfizer with BioNTech or ModernaO> with those in unvaccinated patients. The 222 vaccinated and 983 unvaccinated patients who underwent ovarian stimulation – medical treatment to stimulate development of eggs – had similar rates of eggs retrieved, fertilization, and embryos with normal numbers of chromosomes. The 214 vaccinated and 733 unvaccinated patients who underwent frozen-thawed embryo transfer – where their eggs were collected from the ovaries and fertilized by sperm in a laboratory, creating embryos that were frozen and later thawed and transferred to the womb – had similar rates of pregnancy and early pregnancy loss, according to a report published on Tuesday in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

“Our findings contribute to the growing body of evidence regarding the safety of COVID-19 vaccination in women who are trying to conceive,” the researchers concluded.

Healthy gut bacteria may protect during COVID

The bacteria living in your small intestine may contribute to the risk for long COVID after infection with SARS-CoV-2, new findings suggest.

Researchers analyzed the “gut microbiome” in 116 COVID-19 patients in Hong Kong in 2020, when regulations required that every infected person be hospitalized. More than 80% were mildly or moderately ill, but more than 75% had at least one persistent symptom. After six months, the most common symptoms were fatigue (reported by 31%), poor memory (28%), hair loss (22%), anxiety (21%) and sleep disturbances (21%), according to a report published on Tuesday in Gut. Analyses of stool samples obtained at hospital admission and over the succeeding months showed long COVID patients “had a less diverse and less abundant microbiome,” said Siew C. Ng of The Chinese University of Hong Kong. “Patients who didn’t develop long COVID had a gut microbiome similar to that of people without COVID-19.”

Lack of “friendly” immunity-boosting Bifidobacteria species was strongly associated with persistent respiratory symptoms, Ng noted. While the study cannot prove that healthy gut organisms prevent long COVID, the findings suggest “maintaining a healthy and balanced gut microbiota via diet, avoidance of antibiotics if possible, exercise and supplementing with depleted bacteria species including Bifidobacteria” might be helpful, she said.

New PCR test can identify variants

A new type of PCR test can quickly tell which variant of the coronavirus is causing infection, helping doctors choose the most effective antibody treatments, researchers said.

Most current PCR tests can check broadly for the presence of the virus but cannot identify specific variants. The new test uses special “probes” – fluorescently labeled molecules – called “sloppy molecular beacons” that glow in different colors when they attach themselves to DNA or RNA in the virus. When the sample from the patient is heated, the probes fall off their DNA or RNA targets and their color disappears. They fall off at different temperatures depending on the DNA or RNA sequence they were bound to. Because the variants each have some unique sequences, they can be identified based on the pattern of color changes at each temperature, explained Dr. David Alland of \?

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“We have already performed a clinical study which showed that the assay was 100% sensitive and 100% specific for identifying variants of concern including Delta and Omicron,” Alland said. “We are asking the N.J. Dept of Health to clear our test” so that New Jersey labs can use it, he added. A typical hospital molecular laboratory would be able to perform it, his team reported on Friday on medRxiv ahead of peer review.

U.S. study finds slight myocarditis risk with mRNA vaccines

There is a small but increased risk for heart muscle inflammation, or myocarditis, following receipt of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found.

The 1,626 cases documented in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System from December 2020 through August 2021 “exceeded the expected rates,” the researchers reported on Tuesday in JAMA. Overall, 73% of reported cases were in people under age 30, and 82% were males. The highest rates were found among adolescent and young adult males. For every million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, there were roughly 71 cases of myocarditis in males ages 12 to 15 and 106 cases in males ages 16 or 17. In young men ages 18 to 24, the rate per million doses was roughly 52 with the Pfizer shots and 56 after Moderna shots. About 96% of patients with myocarditis were hospitalized. In 87%, symptoms were gone by the time they were discharged. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs were the most common treatment.

“This risk should be considered within the context of the significant benefits of COVID-19 vaccination in preventing COVID-19 infection and potential serious complications,” said a spokesperson for the authors, who noted that COVID-19 itself confers a 16-times higher risk for myocarditis. “The benefits of COVID-19 vaccination continue to outweigh any potential risks.”

Click for a Reuters graphic on vaccines in development.

 

(Reporting by Nancy Lapid; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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A third of airline pilots still not flying as pandemic drags on -survey

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More than one-third of airline pilots are still not flying as the pandemic continues to take its toll on aviation globally, according to a new survey, though the situation has improved from a year earlier when the majority were grounded.

A poll of more than 1700 pilots by UK-based GOOSE Recruitment and industry publication FlightGlobal, released on Wednesday, found 62% globally were employed and currently flying, up from 43% a year earlier.

The proportion of unemployed pilots fell from 30% to 20%, while 6% were on furlough, compared with 17% previously as air traffic began to bounce back from 2020 lows.

But in the Asia-Pacific region, the worst-hit globally by a drop in international travel due to tough border restrictions, the proportion of those unemployed rose from 23% to 25%. The region also had the lowest number that were employed flying at 53%.

“We have … seen some expatriates return home from the region due to concerns over quarantine or being stuck for long periods away from friends and family,” the report on the survey said.

Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways, a large expatriate employer in Asia, has lost hundreds of pilots through the closure of its Cathay Dragon regional arm as well as almost all of its overseas bases during the pandemic.

Pilot attrition at Cathay has also been rising amid strict layover rules that leave crew members locked https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/locked-hotels-hong-kongs-covid-19-rules-take-mental-toll-cathay-pilots-2021-11-26 in hotels when they are not flying.

Of the pilots still flying globally, 61% told the survey they were concerned about their job security.

“It appears only Northern America is back to post-COVID passenger numbers,” said an unnamed captain flying in the Middle East and Africa. “The rest of the world, especially developing nations, are still struggling to get vaccines, and are still not travelling.”

 

(Reporting by Jamie Freed in Sydney; Editing by David Gregorio)

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Soccer-Premier League says minimum four COVID-19 cases needed for fixture postponement

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Premier League sides can apply for a fixture postponement only if they have a minimum of four positive COVID-19 cases in their squads, the league said on Wednesday following a meeting of representatives of all 20 clubs.

A total of 22 games have been called off this season due to COVID-19 outbreaks and the subsequent unavailability of players, with the league being criticised by some clubs for their handling of the crisis.

Earlier, a match could be postponed if one of the teams did not have 13 available outfield players — and one goalkeeper — “either from its squad list or its appropriately experienced Under-21 players”.

“Following a club meeting today, the Premier League’s COVID-19 match postponement guidance has been updated to include a COVID-19 impact threshold,” the league said in a statement.

“From now on, if a club applies to postpone a match on the grounds of insufficient players due to COVID-19, they must have a minimum of four positive cases within their squad.”

The new guidelines will kick in ahead of the game between Burnley and Watford on Feb. 5.

The previous rule came under heavy scrutiny, with some clubs being accused of “manipulating the system” in order to get games postponed during the busy festive period.

Tottenham Hotspsur were most vocal in their criticism following the postponement of the north London derby earlier this month, saying they were “extremely surprised” that the request from Arsenal, who had one COVID-19 case, was accepted.

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel and his Arsenal counterpart Mikel Arteta had also called for more clarity around postponements related to COVID-19.

The league added: “Club applications will continue to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. The Premier League Board examines a number of factors, including the ability of a club to field a team; the status, severity and potential impact of COVID-19.”

On Monday, the league said it had reported 16 new infections of COVID-19 in the previous week, continuing a downward trend in the number of positive cases for a fourth week.

 

(Reporting by Dhruv Munjal in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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