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Health Experts Prepared to Deal with Coronavirus Epidemic – VOA Learning English



The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday that the world has nearly 17,400 confirmed cases of the Novel Coronavirus. More than 99 percent of those cases were reported in China.

Compare that to the number of people infected with influenza in the United States. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates the flu has sickened between 19,000,000 and 26,000,000 people since October 1.

CDC officials also report that up to 25,000 people have died because of an infection during the four-month period. Officials note that, in an average year, the flu kills up to 56,000 people nationwide.

As of Sunday, there were 360 deaths from the coronavirus, mostly in China. There are currently 11 confirmed cases in the United States, but no deaths from the virus.

An aerial view shows the newly completed Huoshenshan Hospital, a dedicated hospital built in 8 days to treat coronavirus patients, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China February 2, 2020. China Daily via REUTERS

Experts are well prepared

Last October, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security held an exercise to help prepare health experts for what is happening today. It was called Event 201. Johns Hopkins University worked in partnership with the World Economic Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to organize the event.

Event 201 brought together government experts, business leaders and representatives of non-governmental organizations. The purpose was to talk about how the world would react to a serious epidemic.

Crystal R. Watson, DrPH, Senior Associate at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering.

Crystal R. Watson, DrPH, Senior Associate at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering.

Crystal R. Watson is a doctor and an Assistant Professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She said the event was meant to help leaders prepare for what is happening now.

“The purpose of the exercise…was to raise issues of preparedness and response for those leaders so they could start working on making sure that we can develop medical countermeasures, drugs and vaccines, quickly in a severe outbreak, that we can respond and take care of the people who become sick.”

Life goes on in China and elsewhere

News stories about the coronavirus note some of the steps governments and health officials have planned for many years.

People flying to the United States from China now have to stop at one of seven airports. CDC workers are measuring the temperature of each passenger and looking for signs of breathing problems.

Travelers who are coughing or have other symptoms may be taken to a hospital for more testing.

One person who recently returned from China is Nick Caputo. He works for Sunrise International Education. He directs camps in China for students to learn about debate.

Caputo was hoping to stay in China longer. But when the travel restrictions were announced, his company decided that he should return to the U.S. at once. He said, “That way I would have time to go through a self-quarantine and make sure I wasn’t infected before I ran my program here.”

A cancer patient and her mother coming from Hubei province cross a checkpoint at the Jiujiang Yangtze River Bridge in Jiujiang, Jiangxi province, China, as the country is hit by an outbreak of a new coronavirus, February 1, 2020.

A cancer patient and her mother coming from Hubei province cross a checkpoint at the Jiujiang Yangtze River Bridge in Jiujiang, Jiangxi province, China, as the country is hit by an outbreak of a new coronavirus, February 1, 2020.

Schedule change for university life in China

Craig Blacklock teaches English at Wenzhou-Kean University in Wenzhou, China. He says the university has changed the beginning of its spring term from February 9 to March 1. He said the school also is helping its teachers and employees get much-needed supplies and food.

Blacklock told VOA that people around Wenzhou are taking temperatures and following the advice of the government to reduce the spread of the virus.

How to protect yourself and others

While governments are taking steps to limit travel and reduce infections, Crystal Watson thinks there are things private citizens can do.

“The average person should also be just taking general measures to prevent infection with respiratory diseases. We are in the middle of cold and flu season as well and so – just good practices of covering your cough and sneeze, washing your hands very frequently, avoiding people who have a cough – and just trying to stay well in the midst of cold and flu season.”

Officials from Health Department of Bangladesh screen arriving passengers from abroad in Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka on January 22, 2020

Officials from Health Department of Bangladesh screen arriving passengers from abroad in Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka on January 22, 2020

Serious cases get the most attention at first

With the novel coronavirus, one that did not affect people until now, doctors often pay more attention to the serious cases.

“We are still learning a lot about this new virus…one thing that happens early on in an outbreak, a novel outbreak like this is that you see there’s a bias toward seeing the more severe cases and death. So we’re seeing those now. But as we go through and gather more…data, we’re going to find that there are many more mild cases that are not being now detected. So we anticipate that that fatality rate will decrease significantly as this continues to spread.”

The world is better prepared now

Crystal Watson says that the world is better prepared now than it was over 15 years ago when faced with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, known as SARS.

“There are definitely very important steps that the world has taken over the last 10 years to get better prepared. We can always do more, but I think people are taking this very seriously and responding in the best way that we can.”

I’m Jill Robbins.

Jill Robbins reported on this story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

epidemic – n. a large number of cases of an infectious disease in a community

symptom – n. a sign of a disease or disorder

quarantine – n. a period of time in isolation from others to prevent the spread of infection

practice – n. the expected way of doing something

noveladj. new and different from what has been known before

biasn. to have a strong and often unfair influence on (someone or something)

detectv. to discover or notice the presence of (something that is hidden or hard to see, hear or taste)

anticipatev. to think of (something that will or might happen in the future)

What do you think of the reaction to the coronavirus outbreak? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.

Health care experts at the CDC say that there are simple steps you can take at home, school, or work to protect yourself and others against viruses.

To protect yourself

  • Wash your hands often or use hand-cleaning gel
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects
  • Be prepared and informed

To protect others when you have an infection

  • Stay at home when you are sick
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes

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COVID-19 outbreaks in two Kelowna area care homes announced as case numbers rise | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source – iNFOnews



Cottonwoods in Kelowna had an outbreak.

August 04, 2021 – 2:44 PM

New case numbers of COVID-19 continue to rise across B.C., with Interior Health yet again showing the most growth.

It seems that the disease may have spread beyond the 20 to 40 age group, as well, with two new outbreaks in area care homes being reported.

Cottonwoods Care Centre in Kelowna and Brookhaven Care Centre in West Kelowna are listed among the province’s long-term care facilities where there’s an outbreak. Brookhaven has eight cases: four residents and four staff. Cottonwoods Care Centre long-term care has three resident cases.

In the last 24 hours there have been 342 new cases of COVID-19 diagnosed, for a total of 150,973 cases in the province since the start of the pandemic. Of these new cases, 171 were in Interior Health.

It now has 945 of the 1,764 active cases of COVID-19 in the province. Of the active cases, 55 people are in hospital and 23 are in intensive care. 

Fraser Health is reporting 66 new cases, for a total active caseload of 388, Vancouver Coastal Health is reporting 57 new cases for a total of 258 active cases, Northern Health had 13 new cases raising the active cases to 52 and Island Health had 32 new cases raising its active caseload to 109.

In the past 24 hours, no new deaths have been reported, for an overall total of 1,772.

Since December 2020, the Province has administered 6,931,815 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines.

As of Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021, 81.5% (3,777,588) of eligible people 12 and older in B.C. have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 67.9% (3,146,669) have received their second dose.
In addition, 82.4% (3,564,533) of all eligible adults in B.C. have received their first dose and 70.1% (3,033,200) have received their second dose.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won’t censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. 

News from © iNFOnews, 2021


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A look at COVID-19 reopening plans across the country – CollingwoodToday



As COVID-19 vaccination rates increase and case numbers drop across the country, the provinces and territories have begun releasing the reopening plans for businesses, events and recreational facilities.

Most of the plans are based on each jurisdiction reaching vaccination targets at certain dates, while also keeping the number of cases and hospitalizations down. 

Here’s a look at what reopening plans look like across the country:

Newfoundland and Labrador:

Newfoundland and Labrador has moved to the second step of its reopening plan two weeks ahead of schedule.

Fully and partially vaccinated travellers from Canada no longer have to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test, nor do they have to self-isolate.

With 52 per cent of residents aged 12 and over now fully vaccinated, the province says its mandatory mask requirements will be up for review during the week of Aug. 9.

If case counts, hospitalization and vaccination targets are met, the province expects to reopen dance floors as early as Aug. 15, and lift capacity restrictions on businesses, restaurants and lounges while maintaining physical distancing between tables.

Nova Scotia:

Nova Scotia has further reduced COVID-19 public health orders after entering the fourth phase of its reopening.

Under the new rules, retail stores can operate at full capacity, churches and other venues can operate at half capacity or with a maximum of 150 people, and up to 50 people can attend outdoor family gatherings.

Capacity limits for dance classes, music lessons and indoor play spaces have also been lifted.

Organized sports practices, games, league play, competitions and recreation programs can involve up to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors without physical distancing.

Day camps can operate with 30 campers per group plus staff and volunteers, following the day camp guidelines. In addition, professional and amateur arts and culture rehearsals and performances can involve up to 25 people indoors and 50 outdoors without physical distancing.

Meanwhile, fully vaccinated residents of long-term care homes can now have visitors in their rooms and visit their family’s homes, including for overnight stays.

New Brunswick:

The province has lifted all public health orders and its mask mandate has also expired. 

All limits on gatherings are now removed, including in theatres and stores. 

Restaurants, gyms and salons can also operate at full capacity, as long as customer contact lists are kept.

New Brunswick had earlier moved into the second phase of its reopening plan, which opened travel without the need to isolate to all of Nova Scotia after earlier opening to P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Travellers from elsewhere in Canada who’ve had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine can enter the province without the need to isolate, while those who haven’t had a shot must still isolate and produce a negative test before being released from quarantine.

Prince Edward Island: 

Prince Edward Island has dropped its requirement that non-medical masks be worn in public indoor spaces.

Chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison says masks are still encouraged to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and businesses are free to adopt stricter rules.

Officials say those who serve the public, such as in restaurants, retail stores and hair salons, should continue to wear a mask.

All health-care facilities will continue to require masks until 80 per cent of eligible P.E.I. residents are fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the province has allowed personal gatherings to increase so that up to 20 people can get together indoors and outdoors. Restaurants are allowed to have tables of up to 20. Special occasion events like backyard weddings and anniversary parties of up to 50 people hosted by individuals are permitted with a reviewed operational plan.

Organized gatherings hosted by a business or other organization are permitted with groups of up to 200 people outdoors or 100 people indoors.

On Sept. 12, the province expects physical distancing measures to be eased, as well as allowing personal and organized gatherings to go ahead without limits. 


Quebec has lifted more COVID-19 restrictions, including extending closing times for bars and restaurants and increasing capacities for gatherings.

Quebecers can now drink alcohol in bars and restaurants until 1 a.m., gaining an additional hour from the previous restrictions. 

Indoor venues and stadiums can now seat 7,500 people, and outdoor festivals can have up to 15,000 with pre-assigned seats. 

Indoor public events can have up to 250 people while 500 people are permitted at outdoor public gatherings. 

Quebec is, however, maintaining mandatory masks and social distancing in enclosed public spaces and transit.

The province earlier removed capacity restrictions in retail stores and reduced the two-metre physical distancing health order to one metre.

It permitted gyms and restaurant dining rooms to reopen in June, ended its nightly curfew on May 28, and also lifted travel bans between regions.


Ontario’s government has released its back-to-school plan, which will allow returning students to play on sports teams, use instruments in music class, go on field trips and ditch masks outdoors.

The plan places an emphasis on outdoor activities – allowing kids to play during recess with friends from other classes – and allowing shared materials again, such as toys in kindergarten.

Students will be attending in person for full days, five days a week – unless they have opted for remote learning – and high school students will have timetables with no more than two courses at a time.

The province is in the third step of its reopening plan, allowing for more indoor activities including restaurant dining and gym use, while larger crowds are permitted for outdoor activities. 

Masking and physical distancing rules, however, remain in place.

Social gatherings are limited to 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. Religious services and other ceremonies are allowed indoors with larger groups of people who are physically distanced.

Nightclubs and similar establishments are open to 25 per cent capacity. Crowd limits have expanded for retail stores and salons, which can offer services that require masks to be removed.

Spectators are permitted at sporting events, concert venues, cinemas and theatres, with larger limits on crowds for outdoor events. 

Museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos, bingo halls and amusement parks are also open with larger crowd limits on outdoor attractions. 


Manitoba is loosening some COVID-19 restrictions and removing its mask mandate.

Premier Brian Pallister says Manitobans will be able to enjoy more freedoms when the rules change Saturday.

All restrictions are removed for private gatherings and businesses, including hair salons, libraries, retail stores, malls and gyms.

The rules around capacity will be loosened for religious services, weddings and funerals. Museums, galleries and movie theatres can still only have 50 per cent capacity but can open up to unvaccinated people.

Sporting events and casinos can open to full capacity but will be restricted only to those who are fully vaccinated.

Restaurants and bars will no longer need to restrict the space between tables and people dining are not required to eat with only those in their household.

Masks are no longer required but are strongly recommended for people who have been unvaccinated. They will still be necessary when going into a hospital or care home.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, says it’s the largest loosening of restrictions in the province since the beginning of the pandemic.


Saskatchewan has removed all public health orders — including the province-wide mandatory masking order, as well as capacity limits on events and gathering sizes.

Premier Scott Moe says the province decided to go ahead with full implementation of Step 3 of its Reopening Roadmap because more than 70 per cent of residents over the age of 18 and 69 per cent of those over 12 have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Despite the lifting of the health orders, Regina and Saskatoon say they will still keep up extra cleaning in municipal facilities.


All remaining COVID-19 restrictions were lifted on July 1.

There are no longer limits on weddings, funerals or bans on indoor social gatherings. In addition, there are no more limits on gyms, sports or fitness activities, no more capacity limits at restaurants, in retail stores or in places of worship.

Anyone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 will still be required to self-isolate and protective measures at continuing care centres may remain.

Alberta, meanwhile, has announced that close contacts of people who test positive for COVID-19 are no longer legally required to isolate, nor are they notified by contact tracers.

And as of Aug. 16, infected individuals won’t need to isolate. Testing will also be curtailed.

The overall requirement for masks in public indoor spaces has ended, but masks may still be required in taxis, on public transit and on ride shares.

Some remaining COVID-19 health restrictions in continuing-care centres have also been eased.

The province is no longer limiting the number of visitors, however, visitors still need to be screened for COVID-19 symptoms or known exposure, and masks are still required in common areas.

The province recommends people wear a mask at all times when visiting a care home if they have not been fully vaccinated, including children under 12.

Limits on dining and recreation activities have been eliminated, and residents are not required to be screened if they are re-entering the building or go into quarantine if they have gone off site.

British Columbia:

The province took the next step in its reopening plan on Canada Day when most COVID-19 restrictions were removed and outdoor gatherings of up to 5,000 people got the go ahead.

Restaurants and pubs no longer have limits on the number of diners, but people are still not allowed to mingle with those at other tables. Masks are no longer mandatory and recreational travel outside the province can resume.

Casinos and nightclubs are open again, but some barriers remain in place and socializing between tables is not allowed.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says some businesses may want people to continue wearing masks for now, and everyone should comply with those requirements or face the potential of fines.

Some restrictions have been reinstated in part of a health region in the Interior after an outbreak led to rapidly spreading infection in that area of the province. 

That means masks are mandatory in all indoor public places in central Okanagan communities including Peachland, West Kelowna, Kelowna, Lake Country and West Bank First Nations lands. Gyms and exercise facilities must also require patrons to wear masks and reintroduce enhanced cleaning and physical distancing.

The face coverings are recommended outdoors in the region if residents are unable to physically distance, but they will be optional for children under the age of 12 when they’re attending summer camps or similar settings.


The Nunavut government has released a long-term plan that will work toward treating COVID-19 like any other vaccine-preventable disease.

The plan, which is called Nunavut’s Path: Living with COVID-19, will move Nunavut from restrictions to what it calls “baseline measures,” which it says are the lowest level of restrictions still needed in the territory to reduce the risk of introduction of the virus. The measures will be assessed every two to four weeks.

Right now, baseline measures include limiting household gatherings to 15 people and opening restaurants and bars at 75 per cent capacity. As of July 30, masks were no longer mandatory in Nunavut but their use is still strongly encouraged.

The plan says the ultimate goal is to end the territory’s public health emergency, which has been in place for more than a year, and eliminate all public health restrictions.

Since mid-June, fully vaccinated travellers have been able to fly into Nunavut without isolating. Non-vaccinated individuals still need to isolate in one of the territory’s designated isolation hotels in southern Canada.

For now, all schools in Nunavut also plan to reopen at full capacity for in-class learning this fall.

Nunavut has no active cases of COVID-19, but the plan says that variants of concern represent the most significant risk factor as the territory considers its next steps in easing restrictions.

Northwest Territories:

Up to 25 people are allowed in a business that is following an approved COVID-19 plan. Households can have up to 10 people with a maximum of five guests from another household.

Non-essential travel outside the territory is not recommended, and leisure travel into the territory is not permitted.

The territory is no longer requiring masks to be worn in public places in Yellowknife and three other communities.

Chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola says it’s still a good idea to wear a mask indoors when there is a crowd, poor ventilation, or shouting or singing.


The Yukon government has lifted a series of public health restrictions as active COVID-19 infections decline and the vaccination rate rises.

Starting Wednesday, the territory says masks are no longer required in indoor spaces but are strongly recommended when it’s difficult to practise physical distancing.

Shops, grocers, bars, restaurants, recreational centres and transit operators should be respected if they request that clients wear masks.

Self-isolation after domestic travel is no longer required for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, while bars and restaurants may return to full capacity.

Certain public health restrictions remain in place, including limits on the number of people who can gather at gyms and recreation centres. Social gatherings are still limited to 20 people indoors and to 100 outdoors. Organized events of any kind are capped at 200 people, with physical distancing required at all children’s gatherings.

Unvaccinated people should stick to six people and keep their circle small, the territory said in a statement announcing the rule changes.

Schools will return to “near-normal” operations this fall, offering full-time, in-class instruction.

Students won’t have to wear masks in class, but masks will be required for adults and kids aged five and up in common areas.

School buses are set to resume normal operations with masks required for drivers and children five and up.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 5, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Several care homes in B.C. Interior battling COVID-19 outbreaks amid region's case surge – CTV News Vancouver



The surging COVID-19 case numbers in B.C.’s Interior Health region appear to be spilling over into long-term care homes.

Three new outbreaks have been declared in local long-term care facilities since Monday, according to the Interior Health website.

Two of the homes – Cottonwoods Care Centre and Brookhaven Care Centre – are in Kelowna, where increasing COVID-19 transmission recently prompted a renewed indoor mask mandate for the Central Okanagan.

The other outbreak was declared at Kootenay Street Village in Cranbrook. A fourth outbreak discovered last month at Nelson Jubilee Manor, another long-term care facility in the region, remains active.

Details on the number of cases confirmed at each facility are not available on the Interior Health website. CTV News has reached out to the health authority for more information, including on how COVID-19 might have been introduced into the homes and whether the concerning Delta variant has been detected at any of them.

As recently as July 18, B.C. health officials were celebrating more than a week without a single outbreak at a long-term care home or assisted living facility anywhere in the province.

Case numbers have been surging since then, particularly in the Interior Health region, which accounts for 945 of B.C.’s 1,764 active coronavirus cases.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday that the “vast majority” of recent cases involve people who have not been immunized against the disease.

Some families with loved ones in long-term care have expressed concerns at the lack of transparency around staff vaccination rates. The B.C. Care Providers Association recently said there are some facilities where only 70 per cent of employees are vaccinated – well below the province-wide immunization rate for eligible residents – but the government has repeatedly declined to provide site-specific numbers to the public.

There have also been calls for mandatory vaccinations of care home workers who work with vulnerable residents, including from seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie.

Henry has said B.C. will not require care home employees to get immunized against COVID-19, but that those who don’t get vaccinated will be required to keep wearing masks at work and submitting to regular testing.

She also recently alluded to possible “consequences” for those who continue refusing the vaccine.

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