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Hundreds of Scientists Warn COVID-19 Is Airborne, And WHO Needs to Act – ScienceAlert

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As countries ease their lockdowns, authorities need to recognize the coronavirus can spread through the air far beyond the two meters (six feet) urged in social distancing guidelines, an international group of 239 scientists said Monday.

In a comment piece that takes direct aim at the World Health Organization (WHO) for its reluctance to update its advice, researchers recommended new measures including increasing indoor ventilation, installing high-grade air filters and UV lamps, and preventing overcrowding in buildings and transport.

“There is significant potential for inhalation exposure to viruses in microscopic respiratory droplets (microdroplets) at short to medium distances (up to several meters, or room scale),” wrote the authors, led by Lidia Morawska of the Queensland University of Technology.

“Hand washing and social distancing are appropriate, but in our view, insufficient to provide protection from virus-carrying respiratory microdroplets released into the air by infected people.”

The new paper appears in the Oxford Academic journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

When an infected person breathes, speaks, coughs or sneezes, they expel droplets of various sizes.

Those above five to ten micrometers – which is less than the width of a typical human head hair – fall to the ground in seconds and within a meter or two.

Droplets under this size can become suspended in the air in what is called an “aerosol,” remaining aloft for several hours and traveling up to tens of meters.

There has been a debate in the scientific community about how infectious microdroplets are in the context of COVID-19.

For the time being the WHO advises that the potential for infection from an aerosol occurs “in specific circumstances” mainly in hospitals, for example when a tube is placed down a patient’s airway.

On the other hand, some studies of particular spreading events suggest that aerosolization and microdroplet transmission can happen in a variety of settings.

The air flow from an air conditioning unit appeared to waft the coronavirus to several tables in a Chinese restaurant in January where patrons became infected, according to a study that appeared in Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Another study that appeared in a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that the virus was spread by microdroplets from people singing during a choir practice in Washington state in March.

Fifty-three people fell ill at that event and two died.

That is in addition to the fact that bars jam-packed with people have also emerged as hotspots of contagion, with droplets of all sizes believed to contribute to the spread.

Cath Noakes, a professor of environmental engineering for buildings at the University of Leeds, who contributed to the paper, said COVID-19 doesn’t spread in the air as easily as measles or tuberculosis, but is a threat nonetheless.

“COVID-19 is more likely to be ‘opportunistically’ airborne and therefore poses a risk to people who are in the same room for long periods of time,” she added.

The WHO advice is out of step with both the US CDC and its European counterpart.

“We are aware of the article and are reviewing its contents with our technical experts,” the WHO said in response to the new commentary.

Precautionary principle

The authors recognized that the evidence for microdroplet transmission was “admittedly incomplete,” but argued that the evidence for large droplets and surface transmission was also incomplete yet still formed the basis for health guidelines.

“Following the precautionary principle, we must address every potentially important pathway to slow the spread of COVID-19,” they wrote.

Put another way, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” said Julian Tang, an associate professor of respiratory sciences at the University of Leicester who contributed to the commentary.

“The WHO say that there is insufficient evidence to prove aerosol/airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is happening. We are arguing that there is insufficient proof that aerosol/airborne transmission does not occur,” he said.

© Agence France-Presse

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Quebec adds 114 new COVID-19 cases as Montreal health raises concerns about bars – National Post

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MONTREAL — Quebec reported 114 new COVID-19 infections Sunday as health officials in Montreal urged bar patrons and employees having frequented an establishment since July 1 to get tested.

With the new confirmed cases, the province has now had 56,521 cases of COVID-19.

The province also added seven further deaths linked to the virus for a total of 5,627.

Of those, three deaths were reported in the past 24 hours.

On Saturday, Montreal’s public health authority urged people and employees having frequented bars since Canada Day to get tested.

Authorities said there are investigations involving at least eight cases stemming from five Montreal bars, but feared that was but the tip of the iceberg.

Some Montreal bars took to their social media accounts to announce they’d had positive cases in their establishments.

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante also called on citizens falling into the public health warning to get tested.

“The nice summer weather may be upon us, but the virus is far from gone,” she wrote on Twitter, urging people respect distancing and face-covering rules.

Quebec is to introduce mandatory masks on public transit beginning Monday, with a two-week grace period before users will be denied service as of July 27.

Montreal has also indicated it intends to bring in mandatory masks for enclosed public spaces as of that date.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 12, 2020.

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Atlantic Provinces See 1 New COVID-19 Case Sunday – country94.ca

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Prince Edward Island was the only maritime province to report a case of COVID-19 this weekend.

The patient is a woman in her 80s, and according to the province’s chief medical health officer Dr. Heather Morrison, is not believed to be related to the previous cluster reported on the island last week.

New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia all reported no new cases this weekend.

P.E.I. now has seven active cases of the virus, while New Brunswick and Newfoundland have one, and Nova Scotia has three.

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A look at how provinces plan to emerge from the COVID 19 shutdown – northeastNOW

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Residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island can now travel to any of the other three provinces without self-isolating for 14 days after arriving.

Visitors from provinces and territories outside the region are still required to self-isolate for 14 days and adhere to local entry requirements. However, once the self-isolation period has passed, those visitors can also travel within the Atlantic region.

The province said it would begin allowing provincial historic sites to reopen, starting July 4. All sites will have one-way flow patterns for visitors, with designated entrance and exit doors where possible.

The province entered “Alert Level 3” on June 8 in its five stage reopening plan. Groups of up to 20 people are now permitted, as long as they observe physical distancing. Up to 19 people are allowed on public transit.

Private health clinics, such as optometrists and dentists, can open, as well as medium-risk businesses such as clothing stores and hair salons.

Eleven government service centres reopened to offer in-person services that can be booked by appointment, including written tests, driver exams and identification photos.

During Level 4, some businesses such as law firms and other professional services were allowed to reopen along with regulated child-care centres, with some restrictions.

Outdoor games of tennis were allowed to resume, though players must bring their own equipment and not share it.

At Level 2, businesses with performance spaces and gyms are to reopen, while Level 1 would represent “the new normal.”

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia and the other Atlantic provinces lifted travel restrictions within the region on July 3.

Residents of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island can now travel to any of the other three provinces without self-isolating for 14 days after arriving.

The province has also increased the limits on gatherings organized by recognized business or community organizations. That includes weddings, funerals, cultural events, concerts, festivals, dance recitals and faith-based gatherings, which, as of July 3, increased to 250 people if they’re outdoors and 200 — with maximum 50 per cent capacity — if they’re indoors. In either case, physical distancing is still required.

The province announced on June 26 that all bars and restaurants could resume operating at full capacity and serve customers until midnight. However, they must continue to adhere to physical distancing rules.

The province is also allowing private campgrounds to operate at 100 per cent capacity. Provincial campgrounds reopened June 15 at reduced capacity to ensure a minimum of six metres between individual sites.

All public pools can reopen with physical distancing for lane swimming and aquafit classes.

These events do not include family gatherings, which remain limited to a 50-person maximum with physical distancing.

The province earlier announced that Nova Scotians could start gathering in close social groups of up to 10 without physical distancing.

Licensed child-care centres and family daycare homes reopened across the province on June 15.

Nova Scotia has allowed summer day camps for children to open as long as they have a plan to follow public health measures.

Most businesses ordered shut in late March were allowed to reopen on June 5. The list of businesses includes bars and restaurant dining rooms, hair salons, barber shops, gyms and yoga studios, among others.

Some health providers were also able to reopen, including dentistry, optometry, chiropractic and physiotherapy offices.

The province has said there will be no return to school this year.

Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island and the other Atlantic provinces lifted travel restrictions within the region on July 3.

The province has now moved into Phase 4 of its reopening strategy.

Households can gather in groups of up to 15 indoors and up to 100 people can congregate in larger venues. People can also gather for religious services of up to 50, or up to 100 in larger churches.

More personal services are also available and casinos are reopening.

Under Phase 3, which began June 1, in-house dining at restaurants was allowed. Small groups were permitted to participate in recreational and some sporting activities and libraries got the green light to reopen. Gatherings of up to 15 people indoors and 20 people outdoors and the reopening of child-care centres were also allowed.

As well, family and friends could once again visit residents at long-term care homes, though the visits require an appointment and must take place outdoors.

People wanting to travel to seasonal residences can apply to do so, and will be put through a risk assessment before approval. Seasonal residents will also to be tested for COVID-19 before completing two weeks in self-isolation after arriving in the province.

Under Phase 2, non-contact outdoor recreational activities were permitted, and retail businesses could reopen with physical distancing and select health-service providers.

Priority non-urgent surgeries resumed on May 1.

The P.E.I. legislature resumed May 26.

New Brunswick

New Brunswick and the other Atlantic provinces lifted travel restrictions within the region on July 3.

The province moved to the yellow phase of its COVID-19 recovery plan on May 22, allowing barbers and hair stylists to reopen as well as churches and fitness facilities. Dental care, massage, chiropractors and other “close contact” businesses and services could also reopen.

But the Campbellton region, which extends from Whites Brook to the Belledune, had to take a step backwards to the “orange” level on May 27. Residents were told to once again avoid contacts outside their two-household bubble. Non-regulated health professionals and personal service businesses that opened May 22 also had to close again. And people should only be travelling in and out of Zone 5 for essential reasons.

Further restrictions were lifted on June 5. Outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people were allowed, as well as indoor religious services of up to 50 people, low-contact team sports and the opening of a long list of facilities including swimming pools, gyms, rinks, water parks, and yoga and dance studios.

Under New Brunswick’s latest recovery rules, Canadian residents can now visit family members or properties they own in the province, provided they self-isolate for 14 days — or the duration of their visit if it’s less than two weeks.

As well, New Brunswick residents no longer need to self-isolate when returning from work in another Canadian province or territory.

All organized sports can resume with appropriate physical distancing and sanitizing. Overnight camps can reopen and indoor visits can resume at long-term care facilities for one visitor at a time, or two if one of the visitors needs help.

The cap on the number of people who can gather in controlled venues — including churches, swimming pools and rinks — has been lifted, but crowd numbers will be limited by the ability to maintain physical distancing.

Masks in any building open to the general public are required except for children under the age of two, children in daycare and people who can’t wear face coverings for medical reasons.

Retail businesses, offices, restaurants, libraries, museums and seasonal campgrounds were earlier allowed to reopen providing they have clear plans for meeting public health guidelines.

The final phase, which officials have said will probably come only after a vaccine is available, is to include large gatherings.

Quebec

Quebec tightened restrictions on bar owners this week out of concern some weren’t following physical distancing rules. Bars and nightclubs can no longer sell alcohol after midnight and are limited to 50 per cent of their legal customer capacity.

Premier Francois Legault says masks will be mandatory for all public transit users as of July 13.

Legault says following a two-week grace period ending July 27, anyone without a mask will not be permitted onto a public transit system anywhere in the province.

Quebec reopened several sectors and relaxed the rules for indoor gatherings on June 22, particularly impacting the Montreal area.

Restaurants can reopen in the greater Montreal and Joliette areas while indoor gatherings of up to 10 people from three households are now permitted in these regions, like elsewhere in Quebec.

Gyms, arenas, cinemas, concert venues and places of worship can reopen across the province with a maximum capacity of 50 people for indoor gatherings.

Day camps across the province have also reopened, with physical distancing. Sleep-away summer camps won’t be allowed to reopen until next year.

Residents of long term care homes that don’t have active COVID-19 cases were earlier allowed to receive visitors inside, meet people outdoors and participate in group activities.

They were also allowed to leave the facilities unaccompanied for more than 24 hours. Volunteers and hairdressers were also allowed inside the facilities.

On May 25, some retail businesses reopened in the greater Montreal area, while retail stores outside Montreal reopened on May 11.

Parks and pools have also been allowed to reopen across the province with certain restrictions.

Sports teams resumed outdoor practices on June 8, and matches were allowed to resume at the end of the month. That includes baseball, soccer and any other sports that can be played outdoors.

Quebec’s  construction and manufacturing industries have resumed operations with limits on the number of employees who can work per shift. Elementary schools and daycares outside Montreal reopened on May 11, but high schools, junior colleges and universities will stay closed until September.

Elementary schools in the greater Montreal area are to remain closed until late August.

Courthouses across the province were permitted to reopen on June 1, with limited seating capacity and Plexiglas barriers protecting clerks and judges.

Camping is now allowed outside the Montreal and Joliette regions, as are cottage rentals.

Checkpoints set up to slow the spread of COVID-19 came down on May 18 in various parts of Quebec, including between Gatineau and Ottawa.

Ontario

Ontario’s courts have resumed in-person proceedings after being shuttered for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ministry of the Attorney General says courtrooms will reopen gradually, with the goal of having them all operational by November 1.

Torontonians riding public transit must now wear face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — the new rule going into effect July 2.

Toronto city council voted to make wearing masks mandatory in public indoor settings, with the bylaw coming in to effect July 7.

Mayor John Tory says the temporary bylaw will not affect social gatherings.

Mayors from the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area asked Premier Doug Ford to make masks mandatory across Ontario, but the premier rejected the idea.

Ferry service between Toronto and the Toronto Islands resumed on June 27 but at only 50 per cent capacity to allow for physical distancing.

The Toronto Zoo also reopened and the province said it was loosening some restrictions around indoor sports and fitness to enable amateur and professional athletes to train.

Ontario’s two most heavily populated regions had more businesses open their doors on June 24 as Toronto and Peel moved into Stage 2 of Ontario’s pandemic reopening framework.

All regions of the province except the southwestern communities of Leamington and Kingsville have now officially entered Stage 2.

Businesses given the green light to resume operations in Toronto and Peel include hair stylists, pools and tour guide services.

Restaurants are also allowed to reopen their patios for dine-in service, though no one is yet allowed to be served indoors.

Meanwhile, the limit on social gatherings increased from five to 10 provincewide. Restrictions on wedding and funeral ceremonies were also eased. The number of people allowed to attend an indoor ceremony is restricted to 30 per cent capacity of the venue, while outdoor events are limited to 50 people. However, the number of people allowed to attend all wedding and funeral receptions remains at 10.

Ontarians can resume visiting loved ones in long-term care homes, as long as they test negative for COVID-19.

All construction has resumed, with limits also lifted on maintenance, repair and property management services, such as cleaning, painting and pool maintenance.

Golf courses can reopen though clubhouses can only open for washrooms and take-out food. Marinas, boat clubs and public boat launches can also open, as can private parks and campgrounds for trailers and RVs whose owners have a full season contract, and businesses that board animals.

Short-term rentals including lodges, cabins, cottages, homes and condominiums were allowed to resume operations on June 5.

The Ontario government says students will likely return to school in September with a mix of in-class and remote learning, though boards will develop various scenarios, depending on how COVID-19 is spreading at that point. Premier Doug Ford has said there won’t be a one-size-fits-all approach in schools, but parents provincewide will have the option of sending their children back to class or keeping them learning remotely.

This summer’s Honda Indy Toronto has been cancelled.

Manitoba

Several more restrictions were eased in Manitoba on June 21.

Restaurants and bars no longer have to operate at half capacity, however tables must be two metres apart or have a physical barrier in between them. Non-smoking bingo halls and video lottery terminal lounges can also reopen at 50 per cent capacity.

Child care centres and retail stores can return to normal capacity, and people arriving in Manitoba from the other western provinces, northern territories and northwestern Ontario no longer have to self-isolate for 14 days.

Larger public gatherings are also allowed.

Instead of a cap of 25 people indoors and 50 outdoors, people can fill up to 30 per cent of the capacity of any venue as long as they can be split into groups of 50 indoors or 100 outdoors. Each group must be able to enter and exit separately.

On June 1, the province eased a ban on people visiting loved ones in personal care homes. Homes can now offer outdoor visits with a maximum of two guests per resident. Visitors will be screened upon arrival and must practice physical distancing.

Amateur sports and recreation programs, as well as bowling alleys, have been allowed to resume operations.

Elementary and high schools will not reopen this school year.

Saskatchewan

Wearing a mask in Saskatchewan isn’t mandatory right now, but chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab says it may become a rule if there’s an uptick in COVID-19 transmission rates.

Saskatchewan has expanded its pandemic guidelines for visitors to long-term care homes. Residents of long-term care homes can now have two family members or support persons for visits, with one person allowed in the facility at a time.

Patients in intensive care and those receiving palliative care can have two people present at the same time, as long as they keep physical distance.

Visitors are expected to follow health-care guidelines, such as wearing masks, to protect others against the spread of COVID-19.

Saskatchewan moved into the latest phase of its reopening strategy on June 22.

Under Phase 4.1 camping in national parks can resume, but by reservation only.

Youth camps can reopen, but for day use only, and with guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19, including the constant disinfection of play structures and monitoring of children for coronavirus symptoms.

Outdoor sports like soccer, softball and flag football can resume, though full-contact sports remain prohibited, as does competitive play, tournaments and inter-provincial travel for games.

Shared equipment must be disinfected frequently, while congratulatory gestures, such as high fives and handshakes, are not permitted.

Saskatchewan’s outdoor swimming pools and spray parks can reopen with physical distancing, maximum capacity, and stringent cleaning rules in effect.

The province has also doubled the allowable size of indoor public and private gatherings to 30 people where space allows for two metres between participants.

The third phase of Saskatchewan’s reopening plan started June 8 with the province lifting a ban on non-essential travel in the north.

More businesses were also allowed to reopen, including places of worship and personal care services such as nail salons, tattoo parlours and gyms.

Up to 150 people or one-third the capacity of a building, whichever is less, can attend church services, including weddings and funerals.

Restaurants and bars can open at half capacity, with physical distancing between tables, and child-care centres can open their doors to a maximum of 15 kids.

The second part of Phase 4 is expected to include reopening guidelines for indoor pools, rinks, libraries, museums, galleries, movie theatres, casinos and bingo halls. A date for Phase 4.2 has yet to be announced.

In Phase 5, the province will consider lifting restrictions on the size of public gatherings.

The Saskatchewan government says students will return to regular classes in September.

Alberta

In Alberta, everything from gyms and arenas to spas, movie theatres, libraries, pools and sports activities got the green light to reopen on June 12.

More people were also allowed to book campsites and sit in restaurants at the same time.

Fifty people can now gather indoors and up to 100 can congregate outside.

Among the other activities allowed to go ahead are casinos and bingo halls, community halls, instrumental concerts, massage, acupuncture and reflexology, artificial tanning and summer schools.

Major festivals and sporting events remain banned, as do nightclubs and amusement parks. Vocal concerts are not being allowed, given that singing carries a higher risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Alberta aims to have students back in classrooms this September though Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says a final decision will be made by Aug. 1.

British Columbia

British Columbia announced on June 30 that it would allow visitors in to long-term care homes.

Government health restrictions were eased to permit one designated person to see a long-term care resident after being limited to virtual meetings or phone calls since March.

The province allowed hotels, motels, spas, resorts, hostels and RV parks to resume operating on June 24.

Premier John Horgan said the province has been successful at flattening the curve on COVID-19, which means it can ease more health restrictions and gradually move into the third phase of its reopening plan.

He said the province is able to open more industries, institutions and recreation areas, but gatherings must remain at 50 people or less.

The government allowed a partial reopening of the B.C. economy starting May 19.

The reopenings are contingent on organizations and businesses having plans that follow provincial guidelines to control the spread of COVID-19.

Parents in B.C. were given the choice of allowing their children to return to class on a part-time basis starting June 1. The government said its goal is for the return of full-time classes in September, if it’s safe.

Conventions, large concerts, international tourism and professional sports with a live audience will not be allowed to resume until either a vaccine is widely available, community immunity has been reached, or effective treatment can be provided for the disease.

Nunavut

Nunavut, which still has no confirmed COVID-19 cases, implemented a wide range of public health measures to keep residents safe. But some have since been relaxed.

Gyms and pools are available for solo workouts and lap swims.

Dental, physiotherapy, massage and chiropractic clinics, as well as offices and stores can open with appropriate safety measures.

Individuals may visit galleries, museums and libraries, and daycares are open.

Outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people are permitted while indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people. Territorial parks are being reopened for outdoor activities only and municipal playgrounds have also reopened.

Northwest Territories

The Northwest Territories announced on May 12 a three-phase reopening plan.

The plan includes more gatherings and the possible reopening of some schools and businesses. However, the territory’s borders remain closed indefinitely to non-residents and non-essential workers.

There are several requirements that must be met before any measures are relaxed: there must be no evidence of community spread; travel entry points in the territory are strong and secure; risks are reduced from workers coming into the territory; and expanded community testing is available.

Yukon

New guidelines have been released for long-term care facilities that allows for visits with one designated person at a pre-set location outdoors.

The territory also said bars with an approved health and safety plan could reopen at half capacity under certain other restrictions starting June 19.

Territorial parks and campgrounds have also reopened.

Two households of up to 10 people in total are currently able to interact with each other as part of a “household bubble.”

Travel restrictions between Yukon and B.C. were lifted July 1 under the second phase of the territory’s pandemic restart plan. Travellers between the province and territory are no longer required to self-isolate for 14 days.

Residents of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut can now enter Yukon without quarantining, as long as they travel directly from one of the territories or through B.C.

All residents of Canada who live outside Yukon, B.C., the Northwest Territories and Nunavut must self-isolate for 14 days in Whitehorse when they arrive in the territory.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 11, 2020

The Canadian Press

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