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Number of active COVID-19 cases hits new high – The Brandon Sun

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The province hit a new record of active COVID-19 cases during the weekend, with 4,849 reported as of Sunday.

This includes 712 new cases reported during the weekend, of which the majority — 474 — were again in the Winnipeg health region.

Prairie Mountain Health now has 103 active cases, of which 32 were reported during the weekend.

This total falls short of the 185 active cases recorded in the health region on Aug. 26, but signals the worst day in the pandemic’s current wave and the worst since Sept. 2.

The weekend also found 10 more people die as a result of COVID-19 in Manitoba, which brings the total number of deaths to 106.

All 10 deaths were recorded in the Winnipeg health region, with several linked to COVID-19 outbreaks at hospitals and care homes and hit people ranging in age from their 60s to 90s.

There are also three more possible public exposure locations in Prairie Mountain Health, including:

• Boston Pizza, at 2040 Marshall Lane in Brandon, on Nov. 1 from 4:30 to 11:30 p.m.

• Elton Collegiate in Forrest, where there was a confirmed case on Nov. 2 when the person might have been infectious. This case was assessed as low-risk, and everyone who was considered a close contact has been identified and required to self-isolate.

• Erickson Collegiate, where a confirmed case of COVID-19 was in the school on Nov. 2. The exposure was assessed as low risk and the infection is not believed to have been acquired at the school. Anyone who is a close contact has received a letter or phone call from public health and has been advised to self-isolate.

The current five-day test positivity rate in Manitoba is 9.1 per cent, and there are 173 people in hospital for COVID-19, of whom 25 are in intensive care. There are two people in Prairie Mountain Health hospitalized with COVID-19, of whom neither are in intensive care.

In weekend media releases, the province again urged people to not socialize with those outside their household, to significantly reduce their number of close contacts and to avoid closed-in or crowded spaces.

In order to maintain the capacity for testing people with COVID-19 symptoms, public health has advised that test appointments will not be booked for asymptomatic people unless directed by public health. People who are not experiencing symptoms may be turned away from test sites.

The Winnipeg area and Southern Health-Santè Sud remain under level red in the province’s Pandemic Response System, while the province’s other health regions, including Prairie Mountain Health, are under level orange.

Although level orange is less restrictive than red, it still restricts group gatherings to five people in addition to household members and mandates the use of masks in indoor public places, among other things.

» The Brandon Sun

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Canada plots course to fully vaccinated return to gatherings in fall

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Canada on Friday said there would be a gradual return to a world with indoor sports and family gatherings as more people get vaccinated, but it did not go as far as the United States in telling people they could eventually ditch their masks.

Canada has administered one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to just over half its adult population, and the country may be over the worst of its current third wave of infections, Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said.

On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks outdoors and can avoid wearing them indoors in most places, guidance the agency said will allow life to begin to return to normal.

On Friday, Canada‘s public health agency offered guidelines to the 10 provinces, which are responsible for public health restrictions.

The agency says once 75% of Canadians have had a single dose and 20% are fully vaccinated, some restrictions can be relaxed to allow small, outdoor gatherings with family and friends, camping, and picnics.

Once 75% of those eligible are fully vaccinated in the fall, indoor sports and family gatherings can be allowed again.

“I think masks might be the last layer of that multi-layer protection that we’ll advise people to remove,” Tam told reporters, noting that in Canada colder temperatures meant people would start spending more time indoors in the fall.

“We are taking a bit of a different approach to the United States,” she added. While in most of Canada masks are not required outdoors, they are mandatory indoors.

Less than 4% of Canada‘s adult population has been fully vaccinated compared to more than 36% of Americans.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has promised that everyone who wants to can be fully vaccinated by September, this week spoke of a “one-dose summer” and a “two-dose fall” without explaining what that might look like.

 

(Reporting by Steve Scherer and David Ljunggren; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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Delayed 2nd Pfizer/BioNTech shot boosts antibodies in elderly; COVID-19 obesity risk higher for men

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The following is a roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

Delaying second Pfizer/BioNTech dose boosts antibodies in elderly

Delaying the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine beyond the originally recommended three-week gap used by the companies in clinical trials appears to induce a stronger antibody response in the elderly, UK researchers found. Shortly after the vaccine became available, UK health officials advised that the second dose should be given 12 weeks after the first to allow more people to get protected by a first dose early on. In a new paper seen by Reuters and expected to appear on medRxiv on Friday ahead of peer review, researchers found that among 175 people ages 80 to 99, those who got their second dose at 12 weeks had antibody responses that were 3.5 times higher than those who got it after three weeks. Antibodies are only one part of the immune system, and vaccines also generate T cells that fight infections. The peak T cell responses were higher in the group with a three-week interval between doses, and the authors cautioned against drawing conclusions on how protected individuals were based on which dosing schedule they received. (https://reut.rs/3wjPK9B)

Impact of obesity on COVID-19 risks may be greater in men

The known increased risk of severe COVID-19 and death linked to obesity may be even more pronounced for men than women, new data suggest. Researchers studied 3,530 hospitalized COVID-19 patients with an average age of 65, including 1,469 who were obese. In men, moderate obesity was associated with a significantly higher risk of developing severe disease, needing mechanical breathing assistance and dying from COVID-19. (The threshold for moderate obesity is a body mass index (BMI) of 35. In an 5-foot, five-inch tall (1.65 m) adult, that would correspond to a weight of 210 pounds (95 kg). In women, however, only a BMI of 40 or higher, indicating severe obesity, was linked with the increased risks. In a report published in European Journal of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases, the researchers note that while obesity is known to be linked with body-wide inflammation, patients’ levels of inflammatory proteins did not appear to explain the association between obesity and severe illness. For now, they conclude, “particular attention should be paid” to protecting patients with obesity from the coronavirus, “with priority to vaccination access, remote work, telemedicine, and other measures given the higher risk of adverse outcomes once they are diagnosed with COVID-19.” (https://bit.ly/3eO6GiA)

COVID-19 testing rates low among symptomatic Americans

Sick Americans appear to be passing up opportunities to get tested for coronavirus and thus are likely unknowingly spreading the infection throughout their communities, new research shows. Among 37,000 adults across the United States who participated in a smartphone app survey between March and October 2020, nearly 2,700 reported at least one episode of fever and chills. But according to a report published in JAMA Network Open, only a small fraction reported receiving a COVID-19 test result within seven days of the onset of illness. At first, as tests became more accessible, the numbers improved. In early April 2020, less than 10% of survey participants reporting illness with fever received test results within a week. By late July, that proportion had increased to 24.1%. Throughout the summer and fall, as tests became easier to find, the number of sick participants who reported getting tested remained flat. By late October, only 26% reported receiving a test result within a week of febrile illness. “It’s shocking to me that when people have a fever they’re still not getting tested,” said coauthor Dr. Mark Pletcher of the University of California, San Francisco. “Tests are easy to come by. People might have coronavirus, might be spreading it to their friends and neighbors, and they’re not getting tested.” (https://bit.ly/2QUyMzf)

Open  in an external browser for a Reuters graphic on vaccines in development.

 

(Reporting by Nancy Lapid, Alistair Smout and Ronnie Cohen; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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U.S. CDC says Fully vaccinated people can remove their masks in most places

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday advised that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks outdoors and can avoid wearing them indoors in most places, updated guidance the agency said will allow life to begin to return to normal.

The CDC, which hopes the guidance will prod more Americans to get vaccinated, also said fully immunized people will not need to physically distance in most places.

The turnaround came just 16 days since CDC issued revised guidance that left many restrictions in place for vaccinated people. The agency came under fire in March for initially discouraging immunized grandparents to fly to visit loved ones.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the new guidance was based on a sharp reduction in cases, expansion of vaccines to younger people and vaccine efficacy against coronavirus variants.

“We followed the science here,” Walensky.

President Joe Biden emerged at the White House for remarks without a mask. “I think it’s a great milestone, a great day,” he said.

“If you’re fully vaccinated and can take your mask off, you’ve earned the right to do something that Americans are known for all around the world: greeting others with a smile,” he said, flashing a brief smile himself.

Biden earlier shed his mask during a meeting with lawmakers, Republican Senator Shelly Moore Capito told reporters. Some journalists at the White House also removed their masks.

The CDC had faced criticism, even from public health officials, that it has been too cautious in its guidance. Critics have said people need to see more benefit of getting vaccinated in terms of returning to normal activities.

“In the past couple of weeks, we have seen additional data to show these vaccines work in the real world, they stand up to the variants, and vaccinated people are less likely to transmit the virus,” the agency said in a news release.

It added, “We needed to take the time to review the full body of evidence to get this right, and that’s how we came to this decision.”

‘NEED A REWARD’

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease doctor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said he supports the new guidance that many had been calling for.

“People in state health departments and infectious disease doctors have been saying this for some time because they’re so impressed with the effectiveness of the vaccine, and also, they have the feeling that people who are vaccinated need a reward,” he said.

Republican Senator Susan Collins called the guidance “overdue.”

“If people find they cannot do anything differently after a vaccine, they will not see the benefit in getting vaccinated,” she said.

The revised guidance is a major step toward returning to pre-pandemic life, but the agency still recommends vaccinated people wear masks on planes and trains, and at airports, transit hubs, mass transit and places like hospitals and doctor’s offices.

Officials in several states said they would immediately review existing mask requirements.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association said the announcement creates ambiguity because it fails to fully align with state and local orders.

“It is critical for customers to remember the CDC announcement is guidance and that many state and local jurisdictions still have mask mandates in place that retailers must follow.”

Supermarket chain Kroger Co said it would keep its mask requirements in place “at this time.”

Target Corp said it will continue requiring coronavirus safety measures in all stores, including masks and social distancing, while it reviews the guidance.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents 1.3 million retail and grocery workers, called the new guidelines “confusing,” adding it “fails to consider how it will impact essential workers who face frequent exposure to individuals who are not vaccinated and refuse to wear masks.”

The U.S. government last month extended mask requirements across transportation networks through Sept. 13. The Transportation Security Administration said it would “work closely with the CDC to evaluate the need for these directives.” Walensky said CDC will soon issued updated transit guidance.

The new guidance says vaccinated Americans can resume all travel, do not need to quarantine after international trips and do not need to be tested for COVID-19 if exposed to someone who is COVID-19 positive but asymptomatic.

However, Americans still face some international travel restrictions, including non-essential trips to Canada.

Masks became a political issue in the United States with then-President Donald Trump resisting mandating face coverings while President Joe Biden embraced masks and mandated them for transit hubs. Some U.S. states issued aggressive mask mandates while others declined or dropped them months ago.

The CDC said fully vaccinated people should still wear masks where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, and abide by rules and regulations set by local businesses and workplaces.

In late April, the CDC said fully vaccinated people can safely engage in outdoor activities like walking and hiking without masks, but recommended their continued use in public spaces where they are required.

Immune-compromised individuals should consult doctors before shedding masks, and those who are not vaccinated should continue wearing them, Walensky said.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Additional reporting by Steve Holland and Nandita Bose in Washington, Richa Naidu, Lisa P. Baertlein and Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago; Editing by Franklin Paul and Bill Berkrot)

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