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Manitoba Teachers' Society pleads for school closures by Wednesday –



The head of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society is calling on the province to shut down schools by Wednesday.

Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen announced Friday that classes for all kindergarten to Grade 12 students will be suspended from March 23 to April 13, in response to the novel coronavirus arriving in Manitoba. Suspending classes means students will stay home, but teachers and staff will still work.

In a letter addressed to Goertzen, MTS president James Bedford took issue with the week-long wait and asked that educators be allowed to work from home.

“In many classrooms across Manitoba, increasing the distance between desks is not feasible since the classrooms are already crowded,” wrote Bedford, whose organization represents 16,000 public school teachers.

“In younger grades, there are no individual desks because the students often sit at round tables. More importantly, we have learned from watching other cities that asymptomatic transmission is possible and that time is of the essence in helping to flatten the curve.”

Bedford has heard from “many teachers” that they developed take-home learning packages over the weekend so students have them on Monday, ensuring children stay on course to finish the curriculum on time.

James Bedford, president of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society, sent a letter Monday to Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen about shutting down schools. (Submitted by the Manitoba Teachers’ Society)

Goertzen said last week that the province gave a week’s notice of class suspensions so parents can make child-care arrangements and the education system can prepare.

Goertzen said Monday that the move was guided by medical advice.

“You do not want politicians making decisions politically in a time of pandemic. You need to be guided by people who are experts in this,” he said.

“I get why there’s questions and that’s entirely fair … but I think medical professionals have to be leading that.”

During the province’s daily COVID-19 update, Manitoba’s chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said closing schools is a matter of timing.

Roussin said Monday that schools would normally close in cases of community or school-based transmission. There are no cases of that in Manitoba, he said. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

“Almost all of the evidence shows that the closing of schools should really occur when we see either cases in schools, or we have sustained community-based transmission,” Roussin told reporters Monday.

“We have not seen community-based transmission, we have not seen cases within our schools.”

All seven cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba have been travel-related, and he doesn’t expect any community transmission at this time, he said.

Currently, classes are set to resume in mid-April, but Roussin said the province will continue assessing the situation and an extension will be granted if needed.

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Ontario reports 129 new COVID-19 cases but continues downward trend – CTV News



Ontario is reporting 129 new COVID-19 cases as the downward trend continues in the province.

The new cases bring the provincial total to 36,723.

“Locally, 27 of Ontario’s 34 public health units reporting five or fewer cases, with 18 of them reporting no new cases at all,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said Sunday. “Hospitalizations, ICU admissions have both decreased with the number of vented patients being relatively stable.”

Ontario also added three new COVID-19 related deaths on Sunday, bringing the total to 2,719. The number of resolved patients also increased on Sunday by 112.

The 129 new cases comes after officials confirmed 130 infections on Saturday. On Thursday, 170 new cases were reported, the highest number noted in more than a week.

Where are the COVID-19 cases?

Twenty-seven of Ontario’s 34 public health units reported five or fewer cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, with 18 of them reporting no new cases at all.

According to Sunday’s epidemiology report, 30 of the new cases were found in Peel Region, nine were found in York Region, 36 were found in Toronto and seven were found in Windsor-Essex, a region that has been grappling with outbreaks among migrant workers.

Nearly 90 per cent of new cases in people under 60

Of the new cases in Ontario, 97 are between the ages of 20 and 59. There are 18 patients who are 19 years old or younger and 14 patients who are over the age of 59.

The majority of total deaths to date have been reported in people over the age of 79. One person under the age of 19 who had COVID-19 has died in Ontario, but it is not clear if the death was caused by the disease or other health issues.

Eleven patients who died were between the ages of 20 and 39, while 111 were between the ages of 40 and 59, and 722 were between the ages of 60 and 79.

More than 1,800 people over the age of 80 have died of the disease.

COVID-19 testing in Ontario

In the last 24 hours, just over 25,726 COVID-19 tests were conducted by officials.

Ontario health officials have conducted nearly 1.7 million tests for the disease since the pandemic was declared.

More than 16,000 tests are still under investigation.

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Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada – CTV News



For the last four months, Canada’s public health experts have been racing to stop the spread of COVID-19 by trying to figure out how everyone is getting it, and whom they may have given it to.

But even the best efforts have left doctors stymied about the source of more than one-third of this country’s known COVID-19 infections. Not knowing where cases come from makes outbreaks that much harder to stamp out.

Now medical researchers and supercomputers are turning genetics labs into virus detective agencies, looking first to find the novel coronavirus itself within blood samples from thousands of infected patients, and then comparing all of those isolated viruses to each other looking for places they differ.

Every close match will draw a line from patient to patient, ultimately painting a picture of how the virus spread.

“This is the big effort over the next four weeks,” said Andrew McArthur, director of the biomedical discovery and commercialization program at McMaster University.

“What’s going to come out of there pretty soon is a glimpse of what just happened, how did it move around the province, how did it move between provinces or how big was Pearson (airport) in the early days of the airport being open.”

Knowing how the virus spread will show where there were weaknesses in public health measures early on, said McArthur. Being able to keep divining genetic codes from samples will mean when there are flare-ups of cases, they can be quickly compared to each other to see if they’re all related or are coming from multiple sources.

It means, for example, a long-term care centre should be able to quickly know if its 10 new cases are because one case spread widely or arose from multiple carriers coming into the facility.

“That’s a very different infection-control problem,” said McArthur.

It also means that maybe, just maybe, the second COVID-19 wave most think is coming won’t be as bad, or as hard to control, as the first, because the sources can be isolated very quickly.

“A second wave is likely,” McArthur said. “But we’ve never spent this kind of money and effort before, either, so maybe we’ll beat it.”

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003.

This genetic mapping is constantly on the look-out for mutations. Thus far, SARS-CoV-2, the official name for the virus that causes COVID-19, has not mutated as quickly as many others do. Influenza, for instance, changes so much over a year the vaccine has to be retooled every summer to keep up.

But there are enough subtle changes still happening among the 28,000 individual markers that make up a genome for SARS-CoV-2 that cases can be traced backward and linked to the ones that came before. McArthur said it takes a lot of data storage, a lot of high-capacity computer analysis, and a lot of money, to run the comparisons among them all.

The federal government put $40 million on the table in April for genetic research on COVID-19. Half is to keep tabs on the virus as it spreads, look for any changes it undergoes, and map its pathway across the country. The other half is to look at the genetic structures of the patients who get infected, trying to answer the puzzling question of why some people die and others have symptoms so mild they never even know they are sick.

Genome Canada is administering the project, with six regional genomics agencies overseeing the work locally and labs like McArthur’s doing the testing and analysis. The funding is intended to create genetic maps from 150,000 patients. Canada thus far has had about 108,000 positive cases, and the expectation is that almost every one of them will be gene-mapped.

The results will be loaded into a global site comparing all known infections of COVID-19, but also be analyzed for national and regional reports.

In New York, genetic sequencing was used to figure out that COVID-19 in Manhattan wasn’t coming from China and Iran as imagined, but from Europe. In Canada, it is suspected that much of the virus came into this country from travellers returning from the United States in early March. But the work is only now beginning to confirm that belief.

McArthur estimates the first data will be available for Ontario in about four weeks, but warns it will take many more months to complete all of the tests. His lab sequenced 600 samples on Wednesday alone.

Overall, McArthur expects the genetics project to last for two years.

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

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Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada



By Canadian Press

Jul 12, 2020

OTTAWA — Canada’s public health experts have been racing to stop the spread of COVID-19 by trying to figure out how everyone is getting it, and whom they might have given it to.

But even the best efforts over the last four months have left doctors stymied about the source of more than one-third of this country’s known COVID-19 infections.

Now, medical researchers are using supercomputers to turn genetics labs into detective agencies and starting the work to figure out how almost every case in Canada arose.

Andrew McArthur, director of the biomedical discovery and commercialization program at McMaster University, says his group will make a big push over the next month to compare the genetic material from versions of novel coronavirus isolated from blood samples of thousands of Canadians.

Source:- Nanaimo News NOW

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