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Police Investigate Deliberate Spoiling of 500 Vaccine Doses – Snopes.com

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This article is republished here with permission from The Associated Press. This content is shared here because the topic may interest Snopes readers; it does not, however, represent the work of Snopes fact-checkers or editors.

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GRAFTON, Wis. (AP) — Police and federal authorities are investigating after an employee at a Wisconsin health system admitted to deliberately spoiling 500 doses of coronavirus vaccine.

Aurora Medical Center first reported that the doses has been spoiled on Saturday, saying they had been accidentally left out unrefrigerated overnight by an employee at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton. The health system said Wednesday that the doses of vaccine now appear to have been deliberately spoiled.

Police in Grafton, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of Milwaukee, said in a statement that the department, FBI and Food and Drug Administration are “actively” investigating the case. Police said they were notified of the alleged tampering Wednesday night. Police said Thursday morning that no other information would be immediately released, and declined to say if any arrests have been made.

In a statement late Wednesday, Aurora said the employee involved “acknowledged that they intentionally removed the vaccine from refrigeration.”

Aurora said it has fired the employee and referred the matter to the authorities. The statement said nothing about a possible motive for the action.

“We continue to believe that vaccination is our way out of the pandemic. We are more than disappointed that this individual’s actions will result in a delay of more than 500 people receiving their vaccine,” the statement said.

Aurora said it would provide more information on Thursday.

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Six cases of new UK variant of COVID-19 confirmed at Roberta Place LTC home in Barrie – Newstalk 1010 (iHeartRadio)

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Simcoe-Muskoka health officials say another case of the U.K. variant of COVID-19 has been confirmed in the region.

The person infected – who did not travel abroad – was reportedly in close contact with someone who contracted the virus during the recent outbreak at Bradford Valley Care Community. 

Since January 14, six residents and three staff members there, have tested positive for COVID-19.

Health officials are investigating to see if the other cases are also tied to the U.K. variant. 

They also reported that this seventh person in the region infected with the new strain of the virus, works at a retail outlet in Simcoe County. Officials did not provide the name of the store, but say it offered curbside pickup only. We have also earned that two other people associated with the retailer tested positive for the coronavirus.

As NEWSTALK 1010 first told you yesterday, the region confirmed six cases of the new U.K. variant at another long term care home – Roberta Place, in Barrie, Ontario. The home has been reeling from a deadly outbreak in recent weeks.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit said genome sequencing on six COVID-19 samples from Roberta Place Retirement Lodge have been identified as the highly contagious variant.

Officials with the local health unit announced earlier this week that they had found a variant at the home and were conducting tests to determine what it was. 

On Saturday, NEWSTALK 1010 learned that 127 of the 129 residents at the home, as well as 84 staff, have tested positive for the virus. At least 32 deaths have been reported there, up from 29 reported Friday.

“The rapid spread, high attack rate and the devastating impact on residents and staff at Roberta Place long-term care home has been heartbreaking for all,” Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, said in a statement Saturday.

“Confirmation of the variant, while expected, does not change our course of action. We remain diligent in doing everything we can to prevent further spread.”

Speaking to the media Saturday afternoon, Gardner noted officials have no reason not to believe all the residents are infected with this new variant. 

Known variant strains of the virus were first detected in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil.

An outbreak at Roberta Place was first declared on Jan. 8.

With nearly half of the the facility’s employees now self-isolating at home with the virus, additional help has been brought in from local hospitals and the Red Cross. 

Meantime, CBC News is reporting that an employee, who brought COVID-19 to Roberta Place will not face charges. In a tweet, the CBC says the medical officer of health confirms that a staff member did travel, but there’s no evidence that the employee failed to quarantine, noting that person was asymptomatic when they returned to work.

The health unit, in partnership with the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre, said it accelerated its immunization program on Friday and vaccinated all eligible residents and staff.

Officials said they planned to immunize residents at the other retirement homes throughout Simcoe Muskoka over the weekend.

As of Jan. 16, eligible residents of all long-term care facilities in Simcoe Muskoka have also received their first dose of immunization against COVID-19.

Ontario reported 2,359 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday and 52 more deaths related to the virus.

That was down marginally from Friday’s figures of 2,662 new cases and 87 more deaths. There was also a slight drop in the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19, with 1,501 reported on Saturday – 11 fewer than Friday.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said Saturday there were 708 new cases in Toronto, 422 in Peel Region, 220 in York Region, 107 in Hamilton and 101 in Ottawa.

Since the province’s report on Friday, nearly 63,500 tests had been completed and 11,161 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine administered in Ontario.

As of Saturday, a total of 276,146 doses have been administered in Ontario.

On Saturday the Ontario government also announced it’s expanding its “inspection blitz” of big-box stores to ensure they’re following COVID-19 guidelines this weekend.

The workplace inspections, which started in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas last weekend, will now stretch out to Ottawa, Windsor, Niagara and Durham regions.
 
Officials want to ensure workers and customers at the essential businesses are properly protected from COVID-19 during the provincewide shutdown.

The blitz was developed in consultation with local health units and also covers a variety of other workplaces, including retail establishments and restaurants providing take-out meals.

The province’s labour ministry says more than 300 offences officers, as well as local public health inspectors and municipal bylaw officers, will conduct the inspections.

Corporations can now be fined $1,000, and individuals can be fined $750 or charged for failing to comply with the orders.

Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said the province is confident that the majority of workplaces in Ottawa, Windsor, Niagara and Durham are following orders.

“However, if we find that businesses are putting the safety of workers and customers at risk, our government will not hesitate to take immediate action,” McNaughton added in a statement.

“The only way to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and end the provincewide shutdown is for everyone – owners, customers and staff alike – to follow the proper guidelines.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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Moderna shot protects against new virus variants; higher blood thinner dose keeps patients off ventilators

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By Nancy Lapid

(Reuters) – 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.

 

Moderna vaccine protects against new variants

The COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna Inc protects against the new virus variants found in Britain and South Africa, researchers reported on Monday on bioRxiv ahead of peer review. They found no reduction in the effect of vaccine-induced antibodies on the UK variant. They did see significantly reduced effectiveness of the antibodies on the South Africa variant, although Moderna still believes its two-dose vaccine will provide protection. The company said it will test a new booster shot aimed at the South Africa variant that could be made available if necessary. Dr. Paul Offit of the University of Pennsylvania, a member of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory panel, said he was only mildly concerned that the vaccine would not protect against the variants. “It is a little worrisome that you see a lesser neutralizing antibody response,” he said, but even these lower levels may still be enough to protect against serious infections. “The goal of this vaccine is to keep you out of the hospital and to keep you out of the morgue. If you get a symptomatic infection or mildly symptomatic infection that is not a burden to the healthcare system,” Offit said. (https://bit.ly/3ocFUBD; https://reut.rs/2Mj0Z06)

 

Full-dose blood thinners help keep patients off ventilators

A trio of trials has found that giving full-dose blood thinning treatments to moderately ill patients hospitalized for COVID-19 reduced their need for vital organ support, such as mechanical ventilation, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced on Friday. Blood clotting is a serious problem in COVID-19. The three trials, conducted at more than 300 hospitals on four continents, tested whether there is a greater benefit to administering a full dose of the blood thinner heparin compared to the lower dose typically used to prevent blood clots in hospitalized patients. In December, the researchers reported that the higher dose was harmful in patients already on life support. The new data show “that when we give higher doses of blood thinners to patients who are not already critically ill, it is beneficial and should become standard of care,” study leader Matthew Neal of the University of Pittsburgh said in a statement. The researchers said the cheap, readily available treatment could help reduce the burden on intensive care units. The trials also suggest a possible survival benefit with full-dose heparin in patients not yet on life support, but that needs further study, the NIH said. The agency has not released the complete study data. (https://bit.ly/39j1BMp)

 

Lifetime smoking history linked with COVID-19 death risk

Former smokers who have quit still face higher risks from COVID-19 than never-smokers, a new study shows. Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic Health System in Ohio and Florida studied 7,102 COVID-19 patients, including 6,020 never smokers, 910 former smokers, and 172 current smokers. The risk of hospitalization and death went up with the cumulative amount patients had ever smoked and the increases in risk were similar for current smokers and former smokers, researchers found. Those who had smoked the most – the equivalent of a pack a day for 30 years, or two packs a day for at least 15 years – had 2.25 times higher odds of hospitalization and were 89% more likely to die following a COVID-19 diagnosis when compared with never smokers, the researchers reported on Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine. Lifetime tobacco smoking history is therefore linked with risk for hospital admission and death from COVID-19, the research team concluded, adding that illnesses typically linked with smoking, like heart and lung diseases, probably contributed to those poorer outcomes. (https://bit.ly/3caMeHu)

 

One-in-three with COVID-19 may not know it

At least one third of people infected with the highly contagious coronavirus may not realize it, a new report warns. Some of them are “presymptomatic,” meaning they have no symptoms but will eventually develop them. Others will remain asymptomatic for the duration of their infection. “Infection without symptoms … is important because infected persons can transmit the virus to others even if they have no symptoms,” the researchers said on Friday in Annals of Internal Medicine. They analyzed data from 43 studies that used gold-standard PCR testing to diagnose COVID-19 and 18 that used antibody testing to look for evidence of previous infection. These studies “provide compelling evidence that the asymptomatic fraction of SARS-CoV-2 infection is sizable,” they said. The researchers called for new strategies to control the spread of the virus, such as “inexpensive, rapid home tests to identify and contain presymptomatic or asymptomatic cases, along with government programs that provide financial assistance and, if necessary, housing to enable infected persons to isolate themselves.” It will be important to know whether vaccines are preventing asymptomatic infections, they said. (https://bit.ly/3oiHFNG)

 

Open https://tmsnrt.rs/3c7R3Bl in an external browser for a Reuters graphic on vaccines in development.

 

(Reporting by Nancy Lapid, Manas Mishra and Caroline Humer; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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Spain’s COVID-19 infections hit new high as regions double down on measures

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MADRID (Reuters) – Spain reported a record 93,822 new coronavirus infections over the weekend, while the two-week average jumped to a new high of 885 cases per 100,000 people on Monday as regional authorities scrambled to ramp up restrictions.

Infections now total 2,593,382, while the death toll increased by 767 to 56,208, health ministry data showed.

“Spain is not doing well and we have to be aware of it,” Health Emergency Coordinator Fernando Simon told a news briefing.

Simon stressed that further measures would be needed for transmission to fall quickly and ease pressure on intensive care units after weeks of gradual tightening have failed to tame a rampant third wave.

He said the highly contagious variant of the virus first detected in Britain was not responsible for the surge and only accounted for around 5% of current infections, although it could become the dominant variant by March.

With Spain’s 14-day incidence of the virus more than tripling from a month ago, regions have raced to curb infections – although national law bars them from imposing the harshest restrictions like home confinement.

Health Minister Salvador Illa, meanwhile confirmed he would step aside to run for election in Catalonia after leading Spain’s response to the pandemic.

Regional Policy Minister Carolina Darias, who has worked closely with Illa, is most likely to step in, a source close to the government said. Illa’s replacement will be announced on Tuesday, the prime minister’s office said.

The regions brought in a range of restrictions. Galicia imposed limited people to socialising only with members of their own household and ordered non-essential businesses to close at 6 p.m. for three weeks.

Regional leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo urged citizens to stay at home from 8 p.m.

Valencia and Murcia banned gatherings of more than two people. Madrid will bring forward a curfew by an hour to 10 p.m. and deploy drones and extra police to ensure compliance.

“It’s terrible because things were getting better, people were going out, but this is creating fear again,” said Baldomore Curas, manager of a bar in central Madrid.

 

(Reporting by Emma Pinedo, Inti Landauro, Belen Carreno, Nathan Allen, Joan Faus, Elena Rodriguez and Michael Gore; Writing by Nathan Allen and Joan Faus; Editing by Alison Williams and Giles Elgood)

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