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New Brunswick doctor says he does not know where he picked up COVID-19 – CTV News

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FREDERICTON —
A New Brunswick doctor blamed by many, including the premier, for spreading COVID-19 in a growing cluster of new cases told Radio-Canada on Tuesday that he’s not sure how he picked up the virus.

Dr. Jean Robert Ngola said he recently travelled from Campbellton, N.B., to Quebec to pick up his four-year-old daughter because the girl’s mother had to attend a funeral in Africa.

Ngola admitted that upon his return from the overnight trip, he did not self-isolate for 14 days, but added he does not know if he caught the coronavirus on his travels or from a patient.

“Perhaps it was an error in judgment, but I did not go to Quebec to go to take the virus and come to give it to my patients,” Ngola told morning show La Matinale.

There are 13 active COVID-19 cases in the province that had just weeks ago seen all of its coronavirus cases recovered.

On Tuesday, the Public Health Department reported another COVID-19 case in an outbreak at Manoir de la Vallee, a care home in Altholville in the northern part of the province.

All of New Brunswick’s active cases are in the health region known as Zone 5, and all have been linked to a cluster in the Campbellton area.

Officials, including Premier Blaine Higgs, have said the cluster began when a health-care worker travelled to Quebec and returned to work at Campbellton Regional Hospital without self-isolating.

But Ngola told La Matinale that his COVID-19 diagnosis threw him, and he’s not sure how he was exposed. His daughter tested positive as well and both have been in quarantine since, but neither have had any symptoms.

The doctor, who is of Congolese descent, said he has been the victim of racist attacks online since public attention was directed to his case. His name and photo were shared on social media with racist comments describing him as “the bad doctor who went to get the virus to kill people here.”

Ngola told the radio program he took precautions when travelling and did not stop en route.

He continued working upon his return to Campbellton and left his daughter in the care of an essential service workers’ daycare centre.

On May 25, he was told that one of his patients had tested positive for COVID-19. He called the man, whom he’d seen May 19 for a prescription renewal, and stopped working right away.

Ngola said as a patient, he also has the right to confidentiality.

The Campbellton COVID-19 cluster has led to increased testing in the region, where the Vitalite health authority offered tests to anyone who asked from Friday through Sunday.

More than 3,300 were completed over the weekend and Zone 5 has moved back a step in the province’s reopening plan.

A Tuesday news release from the province’s Public Health Department said the newest positive case is a person their 80s linked to Manoir de la Vallee, where a worker tested positive last week.

Five residents have now tested positive for the virus and the regional director for Lokia Group, the company that owns the home, said Monday that two had been hospitalized.

The province said Tuesday that five people are in the hospital due to COVID-19, including one person in intensive care.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, said in a statement that New Brunswickers should be patient as the province monitors the outbreak.

“We have 14 days ahead of us to see how things unfold,” Russell’s statement read. “In the meantime, I ask New Brunswickers to continue to demonstrate their compassion, kindness and patience throughout the province.”

At a news conference last week, Premier Blaine Higgs did not refer to Dr. Ngola by name, but criticized him as “irresponsible” and said the matter had been referred to the RCMP, potentially leading to charges for violating public health orders.

Days later, Higgs walked back his remarks slightly and appeared to acknowledge the outrage, telling people to leave investigation into any wrongdoing up to law enforcement and the person’s employer.

“I know people are upset, but we don’t want anyone taking matters into their own hands,” he said.

Campbellton Mayor Stephanie Anglehart-Paulin told The Canadian Press on Saturday that she was embarrassed by many of the comments on social media directed at the doctor, which she described as “pretty hateful and nasty.”

–by Holly McKenzie-Sutter in St. John’s, N.L., with files from Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2020.

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GlaxoSmithKline Inks New COVID-19 Vaccine Research Pact – The Motley Fool

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GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) announced Tuesday that Medicago — a private company owned by Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma (OTC:MTZX.F) and Philip Morris International (NYSE:PM) — will use GlaxoSmithKline’s adjuvant in a COVID-19 vaccine it expects to enter phase 1 trials this month.

Medicago’s recombinant coronavirus “Virus-Like Particles” will be combined with Glaxo’s pandemic adjuvant system to boost immune response, potentially allowing for less antigen per dose and thus, more available vaccine doses.

Image source: Getty Images.

In pre-clinical studies, Medicago’s antigen produced a “high level of neutralizing antibodies” after a single dose when combined with an adjuvant. A phase 1 trial utilizing GlaxoSmithKline’s adjuvant and an adjuvant from another undisclosed company will begin mid-July. The study will evaluate three vaccine dose levels on a one-dose and two-dose schedule.

If successful, the healthcare companies could make a vaccine from this collaboration available in early 2021. Medicago says it can produce up to 100 million doses by the end of 2021 and up to 1 billion doses per year by the end of 2023, when a new manufacturing facility under construction is complete.

Separately, GlaxoSmithKline’s adjuvant system is also being deployed in a COVID-19 program underway at Sanofi (NASDAQ:SNY) Sanofi expects that vaccine will enter phase 1 trials in September.

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Why the WHO won't say the coronavirus is airborne and driving the pandemic – CBC.ca

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The World Health Organization has refused to cave to pressure from more than 200 experts calling for it to update its messaging on the threat of the spread of the coronavirus through the air, citing a lack of “definitive” evidence. 

In an open letter first published by The New York Times on Saturday, 239 scientists from 32 countries called on the United Nations agency to acknowledge that airborne transmission of the coronavirus is a potential driver of the pandemic. 

But the WHO stopped short of revising its messaging Tuesday. 

“These are fields of research that are really growing and for which there is some evidence emerging but is not definitive,” Benedetta Allegranzi, WHO’s technical lead for infection prevention and control, said during a briefing in Geneva Tuesday. 

“The possibility of airborne transmission in public settings — especially in very specific conditions: crowded, closed, poorly ventilated settings that have been described — cannot be ruled out. However, the evidence needs to be gathered and interpreted.” 

How big of a threat is the coronavirus through the air? 

It’s widely accepted that COVID-19 spreads from both symptomatic and asymptomatic carriers through respiratory droplets, although the WHO previously backtracked on its messaging around the significance of those without symptoms. 

What the group of international scientists is drawing attention to is the role that smaller, microscopic droplets could play in spreading virus particles when people are talking, singing or breathing. 

Studies of so-called superspreading events or locations, such as a choir practice in Washington state, a call centre in South Korea and a restaurant in China have supported the conclusion that some degree of transmission is occurring through the air, and experts say it should not be discounted.

“The risk of ignoring airborne transmission is that the disease will continue spreading rapidly as we’ve seen,” said Linsey Marr, an expert in the transmission of viruses by aerosol at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, known as Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, Va., and a signatory of the letter. 

But the exact extent to which it plays a role in the spread of COVID-19 is still unclear. 

“We just don’t know,” Marr told CBC News. “It seems clear that all of these routes could be happening, and given the scale of the pandemic, I think it’s wise for us to do as much as we can to slow down or interrupt all of these different routes.” 

She said people need to place more emphasis on the public health measures we’re already taking in order to stop the potential spread of airborne transmission.

That includes adhering to physical distancing, wearing a mask when necessary, increasing ventilation indoors and moving activities outdoors whenever possible in order to prevent airborne particles from building up.

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on the pandemic, said the agency would be releasing a scientific brief in the coming days that will outline its position on all different modes of transmission — including airborne, droplets, surfaces and fecal-to-oral.

WATCH | WHO experts on airborne transmission:

While discussing potential airborne transmission of the coronavirus, the World Health Organization detailed its systematic science- and evidence-based approach to reach its conclusions.  3:34

“We have been talking about the possibility of airborne transmission and aerosol transmission as one of the modes of transmission of COVID-19,” she said during the press conference Tuesday.

The WHO’s guidelines on airborne transmission are primarily focused on hospitals, she said.

“But we’re also looking at the possible role of airborne transmission in other settings, particularly close settings where you have poor ventilation.” 

That statement doesn’t go far enough for the experts behind the letter, who went public because, they say, they felt there is enough evidence for the WHO to change its messaging to better inform the public about the potential threat of the virus through the air.

“We were frustrated that they were very dismissive of the evidence,” said Jose Jimenez, a professor of chemistry at the University of Colorado specializing in aerosol science who also signed the letter. 

“They don’t really have really certain evidence about any of the modes of transmission, whether it goes through contacts, through objects or through droplets — there is no more evidence for those sources of transmission than there is for aerosol.” 

‘No new data’ to make conclusive decision

But that level of uncertainty over how big a role airborne transmission plays has also led some infectious disease experts to question the push to label it a significant threat before all the research is in, backing up the WHO’s current position.

“It’s creating a false sense of alarm, and it doesn’t contribute to our understanding or the management of this infection,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease physician at Toronto General Hospital.

“Now, could there be some airborne transmission? Maybe a little bit, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that the vast majority of transmission falls toward the droplet end of the spectrum.” 

Aerosol expert Linsey Marr said people need to place more emphasis on the public health measures we’re already taking in order to stop the potential spread of airborne transmission. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Bogoch said the letter and subsequent article in the New York Times fractured the scientific community and caused a stir with the public over concerns whether enough was being done to address the threat of airborne transmission — but in reality, it’s nothing new. 

“This concept keeps coming up. This issue has arisen in January, and it sort of rears its head from time to time,” he said.

No new research has arisen that should lead to a definitive answer one way or the other, he said.

“There’s no new data. There’s no new information. There’s just a letter and some angry headlines.” 

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Bonnie Henry, said the controversy has been overblown.

“I actually think it’s a little bit of a tempest in a teapot in that we all agree on the extremes and we’re fussing a little bit about how much we need to focus on the bits in the middle,” she said in her COVID-19 briefing Monday.

“It is important to continue to look at the data, to look at where we’re seeing transmission events and adapt if we need to and put in additional measures.” 

Epidemiologist Ashleigh Tuite, an assistant professor in the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, said if the coronavirus spread significantly through the air, we’d know it. 

“If this was primarily aerosol based, we would have had a much harder time controlling this,” she said. 

“Given the success that we’ve had with controlling it, it really does seem like we don’t need to be overly worried about the role of aerosols in terms of spread.” 

Jimenez acknowledged that the threat of airborne transmission isn’t on par with a disease like measles, which is highly contagious through the air but said the WHO should go beyond their current messaging. 

“They’re in a very difficult position, right? I mean, they are a very important organization, and they are being asked to do a huge job with limited resources,” he said. 

“The important thing is, we’re trying to nudge them to change. If we didn’t think they were very important and their opinion matters and their guidance was valuable, we wouldn’t be bothering with trying to convince them.”

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NWT ends state of emergency, one tool to cope with pandemic – Cabin Radio

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The NWT government on Tuesday lifted a territory-wide state of emergency after 15 weeks, while extending a separate public health emergency for the eighth time.

The territory said the state of emergency was declared early in the pandemic to allow “extraordinary steps” to support public health orders – but those additional powers have not been used, and Covid-19 can be managed under the public health emergency alone.

The territory said it is prepared to re-enact the state of emergency if needed, for example if community spread of Covid-19 occurs in the NWT. 

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Minister of Health and Social Services Diane Thom extended the public health emergency, a news release said, as new cases of Covid-19 continue to be reported elsewhere in Canada and measures are still necessary to protect NWT residents. 

Though the state of emergency has ended, there will be no change to the restrictions in place. All travel restrictions and public health measures remain the same.

Everyone entering the NWT remains required to self-isolate for 14 days in Yellowknife, Inuvik, Hay River, or Fort Smith, save for a few documented exceptions. Residents are still required to follow public health orders, the territory said.

An NWT-wide state of emergency and a public health emergency sound similar but are different things.

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During a public health emergency, the territory’s chief public health officer has expanded powers. They include the ability to make orders restricting or prohibiting travel within the NWT; appoint deputy chief public health officers; and establish a voluntary immunization program within the territory.

A state of emergency, by contrast, hands additional powers to the Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs (currently Premier Caroline Cochrane). Those powers include the ability to compel communities to take certain steps.

The territory’s first-ever state of emergency was declared on March 24. The public health emergency had been declared a week earlier, on March 18.

There have been five confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the territory. They were all declared recovered by April 20.

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