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Province spending $10-million on serology tests & studies for COVID-19 – Lethbridge News Now



“We need to know how much immunity people have after they’ve been infected, if they can get infected again, etc. Serology testing will help us find out and contribute to the global evidence, which will help all jurisdictions moving forward.”

Shandro clarifies that serology tests are different than throat swab tests, which are used to identify patients who are currently afflicted by the virus.

The government is also funding four voluntary public health studies that the Health Minister says will allow researchers to closely monitor and test a sample of Albertans.

Two of the studies will examine antibodies in children in Calgary and Edmonton.

A third will regularly test Albertans over the age of 45.

The final study will anonymously test random samples of blood that were collected for other purposes.

“Together, these four studies will give us a lot more information about how the virus is spreading,” says Shandro.

In Tuesday’s COVID-19 update, the province confirmed 45 new infections across Alberta, bringing the total to 7,781 to date. Of those, 532 cases are still active while 7,096 people have recovered.

There were only two more infections in the South Health Zone, which were both in Medicine Hat.

No additional deaths were reported as a result of the virus, meaning COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 153 Albertans.

The regional breakdown is as follows:

  • Calgary zone – 5,218 cases, 230 active

    • 112 deaths
    • 158,548 tests
  • South Zone – 1,290 cases, 22 active

    • 10 deaths
    • 26,929 tests
  • Edmonton zone – 885 cases, 236 active

    • 14 deaths
    • 109,286 tests
  • North zone – 282 cases, 36 active

    • 16 deaths
    • 28,647 tests
  • Central zone – 89 cases, three active

    • One death
    • 27,586 tests

As for the breakdown for the South Health Zone, the province recently changed the way they display information on the geospatial map, which is how we get the information for this. Due to this change, some of the local numbers may be off from what we have previously reported.

  • Brooks – 1,119 cases, three active, nine deaths
  • Cardston County – 39 cases, nine active, one death
  • Medicine Hat – 38 cases (two new), two active
  • Lethbridge – 36 cases, three active

    • West Lethbridge – 14 cases, one active
    • South Lethbridge – 14 cases, zero active
    • North Lethbridge – eight cases, two active
  • Cypress County – 21 cases, zero active
  • County of Newell – 20 cases, zero active
  • Fort Macleod – Nine cases, three active
  • Lethbridge County – Three cases, two active
  • M.D. of Taber – Two cases, zero active
  • County of Forty Mile – Two cases, zero active

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Coronavirus airborne spread: WHO calls for more evidence on COVID-19 transmission – CNET



Aurelien Meunier/Getty
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

An open letter, signed by 239 researchers from 32 countries, sent to public health bodies, including the World Health Organization, on Monday argues there’s significant evidence the coronavirus can persist in the air and spread in tiny, airborne particles from person to person. The letter, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases on Monday, advocates for “the use of preventative measures to mitigate this route of airborne transmission” and suggests re-examining the role of different transmission routes in the spread of disease.

The existence of the open letter was first reported by The New York Times and Los Angeles Times on Saturday, describing the WHO as an organization “out of step with science” on the matter. On Thursday, the WHO responded by updating its scientific brief on how the coronavirus is spread. 

It notes the science isnt yet settled on whether SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, spreads effectively and causes disease via the air. And it appears it’s not a yes or no equation. Like many aspects of the pandemic, it’s a puzzle that remains unsolved.

“It’s possible and even likely that airborne transmission occurs for SARS-CoV-2 sometimes,” Babak Javid, an infectious diseases physician at the Tsinghua University School of Medicine, said in a statement. “It’s not at all clear how common this is.”

The WHO’s official guidance on the matter is the virus moves from person to person via “small droplets” that are expelled when a person with COVID-19 coughs, sneezes or speaks. These droplets are too heavy to travel great distances, sinking quickly to the ground. In addition, it states the virus can be picked up from surfaces. That’s why hand-washing and social distancing are important to help curb the spread.

But the signatories in the open letter argue SARS-CoV-2 lingers in the air, and this may play a role in transmission. They believe when a person with COVID-19 expels virus, the particles remain aloft and can travel great distances on air currents, particularly where ventilation is poor. “It is understood that there is not as yet universal acceptance of airborne transmission of SARS-CoV2; but in our collective assessment there is more than enough supporting evidence so that the precautionary principle should apply,” they write. 

To mitigate the risk of airborne transmission, they propose two major measures should be implemented: Better ventilation in public buildings and reducing overcrowding. It also calls for the WHO to recognize this potential route of transmission and more effectively communicate the risks associated with it. 

“We are concerned that the lack of recognition of the risk of airborne transmission of COVID-19 and the lack of clear recommendations on the control measures against the airborne virus will have significant consequences,” the researchers write. The WHO has been reticent to provide additional advice highlighting the risks, citing a lack of evidence.

Some scientists voiced concerns over the letter suggesting the concerns over airborne transmission may be overblown.

“I’m a bit shocked this came up,” says Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases researcher at the University of Toronto. “There is no new data, just a signed letter that makes headlines.”

Over the air

The debate is centered on interpretation of transmission modes, and this confusion extends to the public’s perception of how the disease spreads.

“A problem here is the potential conflict between the technical notion of airborne transmission and the perception of the general public about this term,” said Jose Vazquez-Boland, chair of infectious diseases at the University of Edinburgh.  

The academic kerfuffle essentially pits “droplets” — the heavy particles that fall to the ground within six feet — against “aerosols” — light viral particles that remain suspended in the air. The key difference is the size of the particles.

“The size of [a] droplet is going to be really important, because all effectively have mass or weigh something,” explains Bruce Thompson, a respiratory expert at Swinburne University in Australia. The bigger respiratory droplets from something like a sneeze don’t stick around in the air long; they’re airborne, but they drop to the ground quickly because of gravity. Aerosols are different.

“If it’s an aerosol, it’s potentially going to be floating around the air more,” Thompson says.

These technical distinctions can make it hard for the general public to understand what it means for a virus to be “airborne.”

“For the public, it may be difficult to differentiate between the different situations and technical definitions,” Vazquez-Boland said. 

You might immediately think just going for a jog or spending time outside could result in infection as COVID-19 particles make their way into your lungs, but it’s more likely the “airborne” route occurs in densely packed, indoors settings with poor ventilation. Whether you can be infected with SARS-CoV-2 is likely context-specific, and many factors will play a role. Some of this nuance is being lost in the academic to and fro and causing some of the public’s confusion over the spread of the disease.

“There is a bit of a false dichotomy between droplet and airborne transmission,” Bogoch said. “It’s more of a spectrum rather than silos.

“COVID-19 falls closer to the droplet end of the spectrum,” Bogoch said. 

Even if the risk is understated or under-acknowledged by the WHO, it may not have a dramatic effect on combating the spread. The organization does recommend avoiding crowded places as part of their official guidance on protecting yourself from COVID-19. It also advises those who feel sick to stay home or wear a mask when leaving the house, another factor limiting the risk of airborne transmission. 

For now, whether coronavirus is airborne, the guidance remains mostly the same. Avoid crowded indoor locations, or if you must be indoors, try to spend less time there. The virus may accumulate in poorly ventilated spaces, increasing the risk of infection. 

You should continue to maintain social distancing measures. When you’re out, put on a mask. Wash your hands. And keep listening to advice from local health authorities with the caveat that information can — and will — change based on new evidence.

WHO comments

During a press briefing on Tuesday, journalists questioned the WHO about the New York Times report and the open letter, giving the organization a chance to speak publicly on the matter. 

“We acknowledge there is emerging evidence in this field,” said Benedetta Allegranzi, a WHO technical lead in infection prevention and control. “We believe that we have to be open to this evidence and understand its implications regarding the modes of transmission.”

“As we’ve said previously, we welcome the interaction from scientists all over the world,” added Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead on the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are also looking at the role of airborne transmission in other settings where you have poor ventilation,” she noted. Van Kerkhove noted the WHO had been working on a “brief” regarding transmission for several weeks. The organization released the brief on Thursday, July 9, which is an update on the “modes of transmission” statement from March 29.

The WHO now acknowledges the emerging evidence of airborne transmission provided by the open letter, but the organization’s new brief states patients with COVID-19 “primarily” infect others through droplets and close contact. The WHO hasn’t “reversed” its guidance, as some claim, but rather added to it based on new evidence (and the open letter), while acknowledging the evidence for airborne transmission remains slim and “transmission of SARS-CoV-2 by this type of aerosol route has not been demonstrated.”

How important this route is for spreading COVID-19 is still up for debate and the WHO’s updated brief states “urgent high-quality research is needed to elucidate the relative importance of different transmission routes.”

Updated July 7: Added WHO briefing comments.
Updated July 9: Adds WHO scientific brief publication and comments, updated headline.

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COVID-19 Bulletin #127 –



Need More Info?

Public information, contact Manitoba Government Inquiry: 1-866-626-4862 or 204-945-3744.

Media requests for general information, contact Communications Services Manitoba: 204-945-3765.

Media requests for ministerial comment, contact Communications and Stakeholder Relations: 204-945-4916.

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Stay vigilant, Manitoba: top doc warns of second COVID-19 wave – Winnipeg Free Press



The Free Press has made this story available free of charge so everyone can access trusted information on the coronavirus.

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With zero COVID-19 cases reported thus far in July, Manitoba’s top doctor is warning people not to be complacent about the novel coronavirus — and to brace for the fall.

Dr. Brent Roussin says Manitoba could be hit with a second wave of COVID-19 worse than the 325 cases reported so far in the first.

“Manitoba’s numbers remain favourable, but we need to remain vigilant to keep those numbers low,” Roussin said at a news conference Thursday. He reported there are only four active cases in the province, none of which are hospitalized, and 314 people have recovered.

“Manitobans are well-versed in the things that have led to our flattening of the curve: hand hygiene, physical distancing and, most importantly, now as we move forward, is to stay home when we’re ill,” Roussin said. ”This is going to be vital to our success.

“We can’t have people with symptoms of respiratory illness going to work or to school. We need to ensure we’re protecting everyone and staying home when ill.”

Even if there are no active cases in Manitoba, people can’t let their guard down: a lot more COVID-19 cases are expected, he warned.” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

“We need to prepare to see an increase in cases in the fall, higher than even our first wave, possibly,” the chief provincial public health officer said. “We’re going to do whatever we can to not get back into an area where we were in March and April, with large shutdowns.

“We want to learn how to live with this virus.”

That means reducing the risk — especially for those most susceptible to severe outcomes. Health officials are working on a messaging campaign urging residents to get a seasonal flu shot and, if they have symptoms, to get tested for COVID-19 and stay home.

“The early identification of cases is vital so we can do that contact tracing, we can isolate cases,” Roussin said. “We’re going to be getting Manitobans prepared to see increased absenteeism at work and increased absenteeism at school, because we want those people to be at home when they’re ill.”

The province has increased its stockpile of personal protective equipment and has “a much better system of tracking our stores of PPE,” Roussin said.

“Even if we see influenza A activity in November and not COVID, we don’t know that COVID won’t be here in December or January, so we’re going to need to treat this upcoming respiratory (flu) season as a COVID season until proven otherwise.”

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.

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