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How B.C. health leaders will be living their lives as restrictions ease – Times Colonist

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When provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry had a couple of friends over for a glass of wine in the front yard of her Victoria home on Sunday afternoon, it wasn’t a typical long-weekend get-together.

“It was a bit awkward and strange and a little bit anxiety provoking not having socialized for several months,” Henry said.

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She washed her hands, poured the wine, placed the clean glasses on a serving tray, and set the platter down for friends sitting two metres apart.

There was also hand sanitizer on the tray — which has become the new table centrepiece during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When her two friends left, as when they arrived, there were no hugs “which we wanted to do,” said Henry, in a phone interview.

The Times Colonist spoke with three health leaders on Monday about what they are personally planning to do as businesses open and social circles broaden under Phase Two of the B.C. Restart Plan that kicks off today.

B.C. Nurses’ Union president Christine Soresen, in Kamloops, will stick to take-out and patio restaurants for now; infectious disease and critical care specialist Dr. David Forrest, in Nanaimo, is weary of any enclosed space where people aren’t wearing masks, so indoor restaurants aren’t first on list to-do list; Henry is excited to return to her favourite eatery.

Phase Two is an experiment for both businesses and patrons, Henry said. “For many, the transition brings anticipation but it also, for many, brings further apprehension and anxiety as schools and businesses look to open once again. We are still learning the new ways of social interactions and doing things we’ve never had to do before and that in itself can create anxiety and concern.”

The idea is to keep to small enough groups to deprive the virus a chance of taking off again, Henry said. “It’s not going to be back to normal, it’s going to be back to something that’s really unusual and different for us.”

Next time Henry has her friends over, she will consider setting out individually portioned snacks, she said. “It’s really about being mindful and cleaning your hands regularly.”

As for restaurants opening this week, Henry is eager: “I’m really looking forward to going to a restaurant.” Her favourites tend to be smaller venues. “Outside is clearly safer but if I’m with one other person in my bubble I’m happy to sit inside and I will be looking again to make sure there’s the right spacing.”

Restaurants are required to operate at 50% of capacity, serve parties no bigger than six people, keep different parties at least two metres apart, and record contact information of at least one guest from each party and keep it for up to 30 days for contact tracing in the event of an outbreak.

To keep fit and maintain a balance in her busy life, Henry runs and does yoga.

Henry has been asking her yoga studio to hold classes in a park. “I’d be more inclined to do outdoor yoga right now.” As for her gym, she is going to continue to take their online classes. “I think it’s going to be a bit of a mixture right now. I find it really convenient to have a session with a trainer virtually.”

If people maintain their distance, Henry believes going to a department store or clothing and shoe shops will be fine.

Forrest, the infectious disease expert, has no plans to step inside a shopping mall or a gym any time soon but he’s less concerned about going to a barber, provided there’s proper physical distancing, low numbers of people and wearing of masks.

“Any place where there’s going to be crowding in an enclosed space will be a concern to me if not everyone is wearing a mask and because it’s not mandated and because I’ve seen people less interested in wearing masks recently I’m more concerned,” said Forrest. He emphasized that masks are not a replacement for physical distancing, but are a necessary adjunct.

Particularly difficult are establishments such as restaurants where it’s not practical to constantly wear a mask, said Forrest.

With renewed confidence among Islanders stemming from the low number of reported cases, Forrest said COVID-19 “will almost certainly” be re-introduced here. Rather than venturing out to more businesses and broadening social circles, Forrest said: “I’m actually a little bit more anxious now doing things like going to the grocery store and going out because the sense I have is that people have let their guard down a bit.”

Sorensen, the nurses’ union president, said she will continue ordering take-out food, she’s curious about an outdoor patio opening up across the street from her Kamloops condominium, and she has a hair appointment booked for June 3 — but she’ll hold off visiting a department store for “a little bit.”

“We’ll be looking for places that offer take-out and outside dining,” said Sorensen, who is sharing a condominium with her mother, 76, a retired nurse, and eldest son, 25, who returned from work in London, England. because of the pandemic.

“I’d prefer not to enter into a restaurant and stay in and be seated in a restaurant, and rather sort through this next month or so of the re-openings just to see how we manage,” said Sorensen.

Priorities start with a dental appointment for a cleaning and checkup and “next on my list is absolutely going to be my hairdresser,” said Sorensen. Her hairdresser opens June 1. Sorensen has been cutting her own hair. “She’s going to help me fix up my trim.”

Sorensen said when shopping in a grocery or hardware store she’s looking for places that make hand sanitizers available, have good physical distancing, dividers or barriers at cashier stands, and safety guidelines posted.

“Right now I think smaller businesses and outdoor access is very important for me — and fresh airflow I think is a good idea. Eventually we will all have to adapt and figure out how to enter larger businesses or big box stores or shopping malls and to do so safely.”

Sorensen socializes with neighbours and friends on her front lawn keeping a physical distance. “I think that’s what we’ll continue to do until, you know, we get the go ahead from Dr. Bonnie Henry to move forward into the next phase; we’ll do this cautiously and carefully.”

Henry said as we move forward we need to take a deep breath and continue to be “cautious everywhere.”

Just as we’ve adjusted to going to grocery stores under this new normal, we’ll learn to integrate more venues and safe contacts into our daily lives, she said.

“It will be a little anxietyprovoking the first time we go to a restaurant and we’re sitting there, and it’s like OK,” said Henry.

The virus remains in the community but health officials have a good handle on where it is, Henry said. Phase 2 will bring a slight increase in cases but it should be manageable and traceable, she added. “So I’ll definitely be going to restaurants but with a small group. … We just need to take it slowly.”

charnett@timescolonist.com

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Pharma chiefs see coronavirus vaccine by year-end, but challenges 'daunting' – RFI

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Issued on: 28/05/2020 – 21:34

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Geneva (AFP)

Pharmaceutical company executives said Thursday that one or several COVID-19 vaccines could begin rolling out before 2021, but warned the challenges would be “daunting” as it was estimated that 15 billion doses would be needed to halt the pandemic.

Well over 100 labs around the world are scrambling to come up with a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, including 10 that have made it to the clinical trial stage.

“The hope of many people is that we will have a vaccine, hopefully several, by the end of this year,” Pascal Soriot, head of AstraZeneca, told a virtual briefing.

His company is partnering with the University of Oxford to develop and distribute a vaccine being trialled in Britain.

Albert Bourla, head of Pfizer, meanwhile said that his company, which is conducting clinical trials with German firm Biontech on several possible vaccines in Europe and the United States, also believed one would be ready before the end of the year.

“If things go well, and the stars are aligned, we will have enough evidence of safety and efficacy so that we can… have a vaccine around the end of October,” he said.

It can take years for a new vaccine to be licensed for general use, but in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, experimental vaccines shown to be safe and effective against the novel coronavirus could likely win approval for emergency use.

The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), which organised Thursday’s briefing, highlighted the “daunting” challenges facing the industry in the push for a vaccine.

– ‘Running against time’ –

One challenge, which may seem counterintuitive, is that transmission rates are rapidly declining in Europe where some of the trials are taking place.

Soon they will be too low to properly conduct clinical vaccine trials in a natural setting, Soriot said, adding that so-called “human challenge” studies in which people are intentionally exposed to the virus to test efficacy, were not considered ethically acceptable with COVID-19.

“We are running against time,” he said.

The novel coronavirus has killed more than 355,000 people and infected at least 5.7 million worldwide in a matter of months.

IFPMA director Thomas Cueni pointed to estimates that the world will need some 15 billion doses to stop the virus, posing massive logistical challenges.

He stressed that the industry was committed to ensuring equitable access to a future vaccine, but acknowledged that “we will not have sufficient quantities as from day one, even with the best efforts.”

Once a working vaccine is developed, one of the biggest obstacles to putting out the amount needed could surprisingly be that there are not enough glass vials to store the doses in.

“There are not enough vials in the world,” Soriot said, adding that AstraZeneca, like a number of other firms, was looking into the possibility of putting multiple doses in each vial.

– IP ‘fundamental’ –

Paul Stoffels, vice chairman and chief scientific officer at Johnson and Johnson, meanwhile said that if 15 billion doses were needed, a number of different vaccines would be necessary to satisfy the initial demand.

“Not all vaccine candidates could go all over the world depending on features, so somewhere between five and 10 will definitely be needed to serve the whole world,” he said.

One challenge could be that some of the vaccines being worked on require storage at very low temperatures, which could be difficult in places lacking the proper infrastructure.

While stressing the need for solidarity and for ensuring fair and equitable distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, the pharmaceutical chiefs flatly rejected any suggestion that intellectual property rights should be waived on vaccine research.

“IP is absolutely fundamental to our industry,” GSK chief Emma Walmsley said.

Soriot meanwhile pointed out that pharmaceutical companies are currently investing billions of dollars with little chance of recuperating the costs.

“If you don’t protect IP, then essentially there is no incentive for anybody to innovate,” he said.

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What you need to know about COVID-19 in B.C. on May 29, 2020 – CBC.ca

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THE LATEST:

  • Health officials will give their daily update in a written statement at 3 p.m. PT.
  • To date, 2,558 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in B.C.
  • 164 people have died of the illness.
  • 2,153 people have recovered.
  • There are currently 241 active cases of COVID-19.
  • As of Thursday, 33 patients were in hospital with COVID-19, including six in intensive care.

B.C. has now had 2,558 confirmed cases of COVID-19, but less than a 10th of those are still active.

As of Thursday, there were 241 active cases in the province, while 2,153 people have recovered. Sadly, 164 people have now died from the novel coronavirus, including 93 residents of long-term care homes.

The number of COVID-19 patients in hospital has fallen to 33, including six who are in intensive care.

However, officials continue to be concerned about the impact of the pandemic on the elderly and care home residents, and specialized response teams have been sent in to deal with outbreaks at two facilities in the Fraser Health region.

READ MORE: 

Top COVID-19 stories today

Important reminders:

Health officials widely agree the most important thing you can do to prevent coronavirus and other illnesses is to wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face. 

The World Health Organization said more than 80 per cent of COVID-19 infections are estimated to be mild.

What’s happening elsewhere in Canada

As of 10 p.m. PT on Thursday, Canada had 88,512 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases, with 46,480 considered resolved or recovered. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial health data, regional information and CBC’s reporting stood at 6,963.

The numbers are not a complete picture, as they don’t account for people who haven’t been tested, those being investigated as a potential case and people still waiting for test results. 

For a look at what’s happening across the country and the world, check the CBC interactive case tracker.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Stay home. Isolate yourself and call your local public health authority or 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested.

Find information about COVID-19 from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

Non-medical information about COVID-19 is available in B.C. from 7:30 a.m.-8 p.m. PT, seven days a week at 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319).

What can I do to protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean.
  • Keep at least two metres away from people who are sick.
  • When outside the home, keep two metres away from other people.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Masks won’t fully protect you from infection, but can help prevent you from infecting others.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government’s website.

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca

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What you need to know about COVID-19 in Ottawa on Friday, May 29 – CBC.ca

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Recent developments:

What’s happening today?

Families of people living at the Almonte Country Haven long-term care home just west of Ottawa say they asked for staffing help early in the pandemic, but didn’t get it.

All but 10 of the home’s 82 residents contracted COVID-19 and 28 died. The home’s administrator says it met Ontario’s staffing standards at all times.

WATCH: Staffing at hard-hit care home

Kim Narraway, whose sister is a resident of Almonte Country Haven, says the facility needed more staff to adequately deal with the pandemic. 0:43

Canadian Blood Services needs more people who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate plasma for a project to see if they have antibodies that could potentially help treat the virus.

Ottawa epidemiologist Raywat Deonandan is calling on the city to open up more public washrooms during the pandemic, even with the portable toilets installed downtown. 

WATCH: How to keep public washrooms safe

Ottawa epidemiologist Raywat Deonandan says public washrooms should be open, but special care should be taken to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the facilities. 0:57

How many cases are there?

There have been 1,930 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa and 240 deaths linked to the respiratory illness. There are more than 3,070 known cases across eastern Ontario and western Quebec.

More than 2,300 people in the region have recovered from COVID-19.

The deaths of 49 people in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark counties and 32 more in the wider region have also been tied to the coronavirus. 

Confirmed cases are just a snapshot because not everyone can be tested and results take time to process, though testing criteria are being expanded.

What’s open and closed?

Ontario is in “stage one” of its three-stage reopening plan. When ready, its next stage should bring more offices, outdoor spaces and gatherings back.

This Sunday, the farmers market at Lansdowne Park reopens for preordering and picking up at a designated time.

Artwork by Ottawa artist Daniel Martelock stands in the ByWard Market on May 28, 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

Quebec malls, campgrounds and Airbnbs, courts and services such as dentist offices and hair salons can reopen Monday

So can national parks and historic sites across Canada, which includes Rideau Canal lockstations.

Many parks are now open with limits, such as not using playground equipment or gathering.

A sign advises people to practise physical distancing as they enter Gatineau Park in Chelsea, Que., on Sunday, May 24, 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Quebec elementary schools outside Montreal are open. Schools for its older students and all Ontario schools are closed through summer.

Post-secondary schools are moving toward more online classes this fall, with Ontario promising a fall plan for younger students by July and Quebec hoping to have students back in class full-time.

Curbside pickup, return of borrowed items and homebound delivery are the services on offer when the Ottawa Public Library partially resumes next month. 8:30

Distancing and isolating

The coronavirus primarily spreads through droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. People don’t need to have symptoms to be contagious.

That means physical distancing measures such as working from home and staying at least two metres away from anyone they don’t live with.

Ottawa Public Health now wants people to think about how to safely do certain things and recommends people wear a fabric or non-medical mask when they can’t always stay two metres from strangers, such as at a grocery store.

Hurdman station during physical distancing for the COVID-19 pandemic March 31, 2020. (Jonathan Dupaul/CBC)

Anyone who has symptoms, travelled recently outside Canada or, specifically in Ottawa, is waiting for a COVID-19 test result must self-isolate for at least 14 days.

The same goes for anyone in Ontario who’s been in contact with someone who’s tested positive or is presumed to have COVID-19.

People 70 and older or with compromised immune systems or underlying health conditions should also self-isolate.

A car passes a sign near a school Monday May 11, 2020 in Chelsea, Quebec. (Adrian Wyld/CBC)

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

COVID-19 can range from a cold-like illness to a severe lung infection, with common symptoms including fever, a dry cough, vomiting and the loss of taste or smell. 

Less common symptoms include chills, headaches and pink eye. The Ontario government says in rare cases, children can develop a rash.

If you have severe symptoms, call 911.

WATCH: What it’s like to be new to Canada during the pandemic

Yazan Souliman arrived in Canada with his wife in mid-February looking forward to meeting new people and finding work. Then the pandemic hit. 0:56

Where to get tested

In eastern Ontario:

In Ottawa any resident who feels they need a test, even if they are not showing symptoms, can now be tested.

Tests are done at the Brewer Arena from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., seven days a week, or at 595 Moodie Dr. and 1485 Heron Rd. those same hours on weekdays.

Testing has also expanded for local residents and employees who work in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit area.

There is a drive-thru test centre in Casselman and assessment centres in Hawkesbury and Winchester that don’t require people to call ahead and others in Rockland, and Cornwall that require an appointment.

In Kingston, the assessment centre at the Kingston Memorial Centre is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on weekends from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for anyone with symptoms. 

Napanee‘s test centre is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily for people who call for an appointment.

Taking a break by the water during a heat warning in Ottawa-Gatineau May 26, 2020. All heat warnings are now over in the region. (Francis Ferland/CBC )

The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark unit asks you to get tested if you have a symptom or concerns about exposure.

It has a walk-in site in Brockville open seven days a week at the Memorial Centre and testing sites in Smiths Falls and Almonte which require an appointment.

WATCH: The National‘s nightly COVID-19 Q&A

An infectious disease specialist answers viewer questions about the COVID-19 pandemic, including whether someone who has recovered from COVID-19 can stop physical distancing. 2:46

The public health unit in the Belleville area is asking people to call it at 613-966-5500, their family doctor or Telehealth if they have symptoms or questions.

If you have no symptoms, you can arrange a test in Bancroft, Belleville or Trenton by calling the centre, or in Picton by texting 613-813-6864. You can also call Picton’s number as a backup.

You may also qualify for a home test.

Renfrew County is also providing home testing under some circumstances. Residents without access to a family doctor can call 1-844-727-6404 if they have health questions, COVID-19-related or not.

If you’re concerned about the coronavirus, take the self-assessment.

In western Quebec:

Outaouais residents should call 819-644-4545 if they have symptoms. They could end up being referred to Gatineau’s testing centre.

WATCH: Quebec’s latest projections show need to follow rules

Projections from Quebec’s Public Health Research Institute show a decrease in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in Montreal is possible as the city reopens, if people maintain physical distancing measures. 1:52

First Nations:

Local communities have declared states of emergency, put in a curfew or both.

Akwesasne has opened a mobile COVID-19 test site available by appointment only. Anyone returning to Akwesasne who’s been farther than 80 kilometres away is asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

Anyone in Tyendinaga who has symptoms can call 613-967-3603 to talk to a nurse.

Pikwakanagan‘s council planned to let businesses reopen as of today and Kitigan Zibi is keeping schools closed through the summer.

For more information

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