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Not mandatory: Alberta launches COVID-19 mobile contact-tracing app – OttawaMatters.com

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EDMONTON — Alberta is launching a voluntary mobile app to expand contact tracing for COVID-19 to help reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.

It’s believed to be the first of its kind in North America and is based on similar apps in Singapore, South Korea and Australia.

The app, once downloaded, uses Bluetooth to identify any other nearby phones that have the same app.

Anyone with the app who later contracts COVID-19 will be asked to upload the data to Alberta Health Services, which will use it to reach out to those who came in contact with the person.

The government says no identifiable information is exchanged between users.

It says any data that is collected is encrypted on the phone, and mobile numbers are never revealed to other app users.

Officials say they are working closely with the information and privacy commissioner and that no geo-location data will be collected.

The plan is not mandatory; users can opt in or out.

The data collected is meant to augment manual contact tracing that is already being done when someone has COVID-19.

Increased testing and contact tracing are considered necessary to prevent a second wave of COVID-19.

Alberta says it has been among the global leaders in per capita testing. Some 141,060 people had been checked as of Thursday.

Premier Jason Kenney has announced that while case counts continue to grow, Alberta is flattening the curve on infections and can begin to gradually reopen.

Golf courses are to open Saturday and other health services such as dentists, dieticians and physiotherapists are to resume on Monday.

If case counts and hospitalizations remain stable, a more widespread reopening is set for May 14.

At that time, retailers, museums and art galleries, daycares, hairstylists and barber shops are to be allowed to open, but public gatherings will still be restricted to no more than 15 people.

Arenas, gyms, pools, movie theatres and nightclubs are to open down the road, depending on case counts and hospitalizations.

Kenney said school classes probably won’t resume for the rest of this academic year.

He said projections for hospitalization are coming in lower than expected, mainly because Albertans have been following hygiene and social-distancing rules

He estimates that five per cent of acute care beds set aside for COVID patients are being used.

The relaunch is expected to be slower in places with large concentrations of cases. Alberta has been dealing with outbreaks at several long-term care homes, at two meat-packing plants and at the Kearl oilsands work camp near Fort McMurray.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 1, 2020

The Canadian Press

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Family says 'back and forth' between N.S. and Ottawa over shooting probe 'unreal' – paNOW

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Premier Stephen McNeil has said he wants Ottawa to lead a public inquiry because the areas of key jurisdiction — such as the protocols followed by the RCMP — are federal.

However, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hasn’t committed his government to overseeing an inquiry, saying only it will “work with the government of Nova Scotia” to get answers. 

The letter from Dobson is signed by the entire O’Brien family and says, “the back and forth about who’s responsible for an inquiry is unreal.”

It says mistakes were made at both the provincial and federal levels: “We need answers, we need answers to heal, we need answers so we can find a way to live in this new normal that we’ve been forced into.”

The letter adds that authorities should be trying to learn from one of the worst mass killings in Canadian history.

“What’s the hold up in the inquiry? Why hasn’t this happened yet? Where are we in the investigation? Was someone else involved? Why can’t we get any answers at all 40 days in?!” it asks.

“The fact that anyone of us has to ask these questions is all very concerning and only makes everyone feel, inadequate, unimportant and unsafe.

“Please for the people of our province, for the people of our country, for the people who have lost someone so dear to their hearts, find a way to let us start to heal.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2020.

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

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New Brunswick reports one new case of COVID-19 at nursing home as tests and calls to 811 spike – CTV News

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HALIFAX —
Another resident of Manoir de la Vallee, a long-term care home in Atholville, N.B., has tested positive for COVID-19.

New Brunswick public health said Tuesday that the person is in their eighties. The new case increases the number of active cases to 13 – all of them stemming from a doctor who travelled to Quebec for personal reasons and failed to self-isolate upon his return. Five of the 13 new cases are residents at Manoir de la Vallee.

The number of confirmed cases in New Brunswick is 133, but 120 had recovered before the Campbellton cluster emerged.

Five patients are hospitalized with one in an intensive care unit. As of Tuesday, 30,666 tests have been conducted.

“We are pleased to see how all our partners have come together to help us manage the situation,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health. “We have 14 days ahead of us to see how things unfold. In the meantime, I ask New Brunswickers to continue to demonstrate their compassion, kindness and patience throughout the province.”

For many health-care workers and Campbellton residents, it’s going to be a long 14 days as they wait and see how many more people will be infected by the most recent outbreak.

About 5,000 people in that zone have been tested since Friday and 300 are self-isolating.

“I would say the majority of them have been tested, but even if they tested negative, they still have to remain home for the next 14 days,” said Dr. Russell. “We’ve seen cases where the person tested negative in the morning and then they tested positive that evening.”

As for the doctor, Vitalite Health Network said last week that the doctor has been suspended and on Tuesday, the college of physicians and surgeons says no further action has been taken yet — but acknowledged the rumours in a statement:

“There has been no action on his license because he was suspended by the hospital and consequently can’t practice anyway. Nor is there an urgent need for us to act on our own, but we are keeping an eye on things, trying to distinguish between reality and fiction.”

There was also a reminder from health officials that New Brunswick’s borders are not completely closed.

In May, an average of 5,600 vehicles crossed every day during the week.

About 90 were turned away because their travel was deemed not essential.

“The problem is, if somebody does something dumb and goes off to some other place where they shouldn’t be and gets infected, you can’t legislate against that,” said Ken McGeorge, an advisor with the Special Care Home Association. “But you have to keep re-enforcing and the special care homes are doing a good job at that.”

Calls to 811 have spiked

Calls to 811 have spiked since Thursday, but despite the increase in testing, public health says there are enough testing kits to go around.

As of Monday 133 tickets  have been issued for non-compliance with the state of emergency order. Fines range between $200 and $10,000.

COVID-19 symptoms

Anyone showing two of the following symptoms should contact Tele-Care 811 or their primary health-care provider for further direction:

  • fever above 38 C or signs of fever (such as chills);
  • new cough or worsening chronic cough;
  • sore throat;
  • runny nose;
  • headache;
  • new onset of fatigue;
  • new onset of muscle pain;
  • diarrhea;
  • loss of sense of taste or loss of sense of smell; and
  • in children, purple markings on the fingers or toes. In this instance, testing will be done even if none of the other symptoms are present.

You can do an online self-assessment to help determine if you should be tested for COVID-19.

You can also get up-to-date information about COVID-19 on this page of the provincial government website.

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Two new COVID-19 outbreaks in BC offices | New West Record – The Record (New Westminster)

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New COVID-19 outbreaks have been discovered in the past 24 hours at Abbotsford’s New World Technologies and Delta”s Maersk Distribution Canada, B.C.’s provincial health officer Bonnie Henry said June 2.

She described both of these outbreaks as being in offices. Both workplaces have two cases, and public health teams are at both sites to investigate and determine which people may have had contact with the infected individuals.

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The new outbreaks come on what was otherwise a relatively good day, given that there were no new deaths in the last 24 hours, and a spate of outbreaks at seniors’ homes and at an acute-care ward at Abbotsford Regional Hospital are newly declared over. 

Henry said that outbreaks are declared over at North Vancouver’s Amica Edgemont Village, Vancouver’s Royal Arch Masonic Home, Maple Ridge’s Chartwell Willow Retirement Community, and Chilliwack’s Eden Care Centre. That means that no new cases have been discovered at those facilities in the past 28 days, or two incubation periods.

This leaves eight active outbreaks at seniors’ care facilities, all of which are long-term care residences. Two of those homes are in Vancouver Coastal Health, while six are in the Fraser Health region. No new cases of COVID-19 have been discovered at any of those homes in the past 24 hours. 

Health Minister Adrian Dix said that while the good news on fewer seniors’ home outbreaks and no new deaths is promising, the new outbreaks at businesses show that COVID-19 is alive and well in B.C. and “requires vigilance.”

B.C. recorded four new cases in the past 24 hours of the virus that has caused a global pandemic, and a total of 2,601 cases.

The breakdown of all COVID-19 infections by health region is:
• 904 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
• 1,311 in Fraser Health;
• 127 in Island Health;
• 195 in Interior Health; and
• 64 in Northern Health.

Of all of those who have been infected, 165 have died, 207 are battling illness and 2,229 have recovered.

Most of the 207 people with active illnesses are self-isolating at home, although 31 of them are in hospital, with eight of those in intensive care units. 

Dix shared other good news that was part of his weekly update on personal protective equipment. Two separate independent labs in the past week have confirmed lab test results done at the University of British Columbia that showed that respirators that B.C. has bought from a new manufacturer in China has exceeded necessary standards.

“This is excellent news for two reasons,” Dix said. “We have a significant inventory of this product – three million respirators in B.C.,  and now [we] are assured that the product is safe and effective for our healthcare workers. And, the availability of this equivalent product will reduce our reliance on the traditional 3M respirators that have been extremely difficult to procure due to global demand and supply-chain issues.”

The government has not yet introduced the equivalent respirators for use in the healthcare system because officials have wanted to take time first to communicate with workers about the new product, and to ensure that the respirators are tested to ensure that they fit all employees who may need to wear them, Dix said. 

“The significant boost of three million N95-equivalent respirators puts us in good stead as we ramp up our health system, catch up on scheduled surgery volumes and prepare our province for a potential second wave of COVID-19,” he said.

Overall, B.C. has acquired more than four million N-95 or equivalent respirators, about 4.5 million surgical masks, 27 million pairs of gloves, 1.3 million gowns and 1.25 million pieces of eye protection, including goggles and face shields. 

gkorstrom@biv.com

@GlenKorstrom 

 

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