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I've tested positive for COVID-19 and recovered. Can I go back to a mask-free life? – The Globe and Mail



The question: I tested positive for COVID-19 a few weeks ago. I experienced some mild symptoms such as fever, cough and fatigue, but I seem to have fully recovered. Am I now immune to COVID-19, and can I go back to living a normal life – free of wearing a facemask, constant hand washing and physical distancing?

The answer: Don’t discard your facemask just yet. SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, is so new that medical experts are still trying to determine how long immunity might last following an infection.

In fact, troubling evidence suggests immunity might be very short-lived in some people.

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U.S. researchers recently published a case report of a Nevada man who was re-infected within six weeks of first testing positive for the virus. And for this 25-year-old patient, the second bout of the illness turned out to be worse than his original infection; he had to be hospitalized and given extra oxygen because of difficulty breathing.

Immunity lasting for only a few weeks is probably the exception rather than the rule, says Dr. Andrew Morris, medical director of the antimicrobial-stewardship program at Sinai Health and the University Health Network in Toronto. After all, he notes that more than 40 million people worldwide have contracted COVID-19 and, so far, only a handful of re-infections have been identified.

“I think we can comfortably say it is extremely unlikely that someone will be re-infected in the short term. What we don’t know is the long term,” says Morris.

Will immunity last several months or a few years? Researchers just don’t have enough information to make a reliable prediction.

What can be said with some certainty is that the body’s immune system usually produces specialized cells to guard against subsequent attacks from a microbial invader.

“Like an army, there are different types of immune cells that carry out specific jobs, and they all work better together,” says Rob Kozak, a scientist and clinical microbiologist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto.

For instance, antibodies will bind to the surface of a virus, marking it for elimination by other immune cells. And if the virus evades detection by the antibodies and actually enters a cell, so-called T-cells can destroy the infected cell to prevent the virus from replicating.

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After an infection is over, the immune system usually develops a type of memory of the foe so that the body’s defences are primed and ready for future attacks.

Blood tests can reveal if a patient has developed antibodies to a pathogen. But, in the case of COVID-19, researchers don’t know how many antibodies are needed to successfully fight off subsequent infections, says Kozak.

As a general rule, these protective antibodies tend to decline over time. We can also expect that the ability to beat back the virus will vary from person to person – depending on an individual’s genetics and overall health. Furthermore, a virus can mutate, essentially presenting as a brand-new threat.

So, immunity acquired through an infection isn’t a sure thing.

However, researchers are confident that they can create effective protection with a vaccine – several of which are currently under development.

“A vaccine can be formulated to enhance the immune response,” explains Kozak. He notes that adjuvants – or immunological stimulants – can be added to a vaccine so the immune system produces more antibodies and long-lasting protection.

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Even so, it will likely be some months before one of the vaccine candidates clears all the safety and effectiveness tests and is ready for the general public.

In the meantime, everybody – include those who have already recovered from a bout of COVID-19 – should do their best to protect themselves and others from infection, says Dr. Allison McGeer, an infectious-diseases physician at Sinai Health.

She readily acknowledges that some people who have already been infected may be tempted to forgo such precautions because they might assume they are immune. And, unfortunately, the medical community can’t provide them with an accurate estimate of their potential risk of re-infection.

“Until we have more data, it is really hard to say anything other than you just need to be careful for now,” says McGeer.

Now that it is recommended you wear a face covering in dense public settings like grocery stores and pharmacies, watch how to make the three masks recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Written instructions available at The Globe and Mail

Paul Taylor is a Patient Navigation Adviser at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. He is a former Health Editor of The Globe and Mail. Find him on Twitter @epaultaylor and online at Sunnybrook’s Your Health Matters.

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B.C. working on vaccine rollout plan as province records 738 new COVID-19 cases – Powell River Peak



VICTORIA — Provincial health officials say they are working on British Columbia’s plan to handle COVID-19 vaccines.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, says Dr. Ross Brown of Vancouver Coastal Health will join the group working to organize the logistics around the distribution of vaccines.

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B.C. recorded another 13 deaths and 738 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the total to 29,086.

The province also issued a correction for nine days of case totals in the Fraser Health region, revising Tuesday’s COVID-19 case count to 706 instead of 941.

Henry says front-line workers as well as those in long-term care homes will likely have priority for vaccinations.

She cautioned that while the province has contracts with vaccine makers, there can be challenges with offshore manufacturing.

“It’s very much focused on who is most at risk and how do we protect them best,” Henry said. “There’s a lot of discussion that needs to happen.”

Henry said they hope to have vaccines by January 2021.

She said she was surprised at how quickly the virus has spread during the fall, and health restrictions imposed across the province last week are an attempt to deal with the sudden surge in cases.

Henry urged people to think of the impact COVID-19 is having on health-care workers, particularly those at Burnaby General Hospital, where an outbreak has led to 55 patients and 40 hospital staff contracting the virus.

She also pushed back against those who oppose B.C.’s mandatory mask requirements, over claims it impacts their personal freedoms.

“I have no time for people who believe that wearing a mask somehow makes them ill or is a lack of freedom. It’s a sign of respect,” she said.

Henry’s call for compassion came on the same day the BC Coroners Service reported 162 overdose deaths for October.

The number of overdose deaths has become “unacceptably high,” she said, while urging residents to show compassion to drug users, and drug users not to take drugs alone.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020.

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B.C. reports 13 more deaths and 738 new cases of COVID-19 – Global News



British Columbia reported 738 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 13 new deaths.

It brings the province’s death toll to 371.

Officials also revised daily case totals from Nov. 16 to Nov. 24, owing to data reporting errors in the Fraser Health region.

The correction saw total case numbers increase on several days, but also saw Tuesday’s record-breaking 941 new cases revised down to 706. Full corrections will be available on the BC Centre for Disease Control’s COVID-19 dashboard in the coming days.

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“I know we had a dramatic increase in the daily numbers, that was a result of some of these data coming in at different times. So we apologize,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

Read more:
Second wave: Global BC hosts COVID-19 town hall Wednesday with Dr. Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix

The majority of Wednesday’s cases were in the Fraser Health region (443) and Vancouver Coastal Health (169).

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Seventy were in the Interior Health region, 35 in the Northern Health region and 21 were on Vancouver Island.

The number of people in hospital climbed yet again, reaching a new record of 294. Sixty-one people were in critical or intensive care.

The outbreak at Royal Columbian Hospital was declared over, but 57 outbreaks in health-care facilities — 52 of them in long-term care — remained active.

There were 7,616 active cases, while 10,270 people were isolating due to potential exposure to the virus.

About 68 per cent of B.C.’s total 29,086 cases have recovered.

Vaccine rollout

British Columbia is aiming to roll out COVID-19 vaccines sometime in early 2021, Henry said.

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The province has appointed Dr. Ross Brown, the Vancouver Coastal Health’s vice-president of COVID response, to coordinate the program.

“This is a massive effort,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said.

“(It’s) the most significant immunization program certainly in the history of B.C., obviously because of the attention placed on it, it’s importance and its speed and the fact that we are dealing with new vaccines. All of that adds to its complications.”

Brown will work with Henry on logistical questions about how to distribute the vaccine as efficiently as possible, she said.

Questions include how to ship refrigerated vaccine, and how to prioritize its distribution to health-care workers and the vulnerable.

Mask order

Henry addressed new $230 fines, announced Tuesday, for people who refuse to wear a mask in indoor public places.

She called on people to be tolerant of others if they see them without a mask on, noting that many people cannot wear masks for reasons that may not be immediately visible.

The purpose of the order, she said, is to target individuals who are intentionally flouting the rules and putting others at risk.

“I have no time for people who are belligerent and are trying to make some kind of a statement about anti-vaxx, and think that this is not a truly challenging pandemic,” Henry said.

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“I have no time for people who believe that wearing a mask somehow makes them ill or is a sign of lack of freedom. For me it is about respect for our fellow people who are suffering through this.”

Rapid testing

British Columbia has received a supply of rapid tests from the federal government, but the quantity of tests and limitations around sensitivity mean they are not being widely used, Henry said.

The province has been trying the tests out in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, where following up with someone days after a test can be challenging, she said.

Officials are also hopeful they can be used to help identify clusters of virus in rural areas, or in long-term care settings where they need to quickly assess symptomatic people, she said.

“We’re still working out what the best way is to use these tests,” she said.

Global News will host a live town hall Wednesday evening with provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix at 6:30 p.m.

Click to play video 'B.C. records 941 new cases of COVID-19, 10 additional deaths'

B.C. records 941 new cases of COVID-19, 10 additional deaths

B.C. records 941 new cases of COVID-19, 10 additional deaths

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Report of COVID-19 death of Manitoban in his 20s was an error, province says –



The province of Manitoba says a report that a man in his 20s died from COVID-19 last week was an error, and the man is actually still alive.

The death was reported last Friday, and would have been the youngest person in Manitoba to die from the illness since the pandemic began.

However, on Wednesday, the death was moved from the province’s case list. 

Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said the mistaken report was due to a data-entry error. He said the man in his 20s does have COVID-19, but he is still alive and currently in isolation. 

“I certainly apologize for any confusion that that had caused,” Roussin said at Wednesday’s COVID-19 media update.

“We have a lot of safeguards on the data and reviewing of that data, so I remain confident in the numbers that we receive. And we have a process to review and correct when needed.”

Watch | Dr. Brent Roussin explains where error came from: 

The province of Manitoba says a report that a man in his 20s died from COVID-19 last week was an error, and the man is actually still alive. 0:24

The province announced the COVID-19-related deaths of two other people under 40 last week — a woman in her 30s from the Interlake-Eastern health region, and a man in his 30s from the Winnipeg health region.

On Wednesday, 349 new COVID-19 cases were reported in Manitoba. Nine more people have died of the illness, the province said, bringing the total number of COVID-19 deaths in Manitoba to 256.

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