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Swim advisories posted at Centennial

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Based on water sample results from Monday, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has recommended Centennial Beach and Minet’s Point Beach in Barrie be posted with a swim advisory.

City staff are posting advisory signs and re-sampling of the beaches is expected on Wednesday.

A status update will be provided once a decision is made by the health unit.

During a swim advisory, signs will indicate recent water samples show bacteria levels that may increase risk of developing minor skin, eye, ear, nose or throat infections or stomach illness.

If you choose to swim during an advisory, health officials recommend you avoid dunking your head or swallowing the water.

Source:- BarrieToday

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Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
For the last four months, Canada’s public health experts have been racing to stop the spread of COVID-19 by trying to figure out how everyone is getting it, and whom they may have given it to.

But even the best efforts have left doctors stymied about the source of more than one-third of this country’s known COVID-19 infections. Not knowing where cases come from makes outbreaks that much harder to stamp out.

Now medical researchers and supercomputers are turning genetics labs into virus detective agencies, looking first to find the novel coronavirus itself within blood samples from thousands of infected patients, and then comparing all of those isolated viruses to each other looking for places they differ.

Every close match will draw a line from patient to patient, ultimately painting a picture of how the virus spread.

“This is the big effort over the next four weeks,” said Andrew McArthur, director of the biomedical discovery and commercialization program at McMaster University.

“What’s going to come out of there pretty soon is a glimpse of what just happened, how did it move around the province, how did it move between provinces or how big was Pearson (airport) in the early days of the airport being open.”

Knowing how the virus spread will show where there were weaknesses in public health measures early on, said McArthur. Being able to keep divining genetic codes from samples will mean when there are flare-ups of cases, they can be quickly compared to each other to see if they’re all related or are coming from multiple sources.

It means, for example, a long-term care centre should be able to quickly know if its 10 new cases are because one case spread widely or arose from multiple carriers coming into the facility.

“That’s a very different infection-control problem,” said McArthur.

It also means that maybe, just maybe, the second COVID-19 wave most think is coming won’t be as bad, or as hard to control, as the first, because the sources can be isolated very quickly.

“A second wave is likely,” McArthur said. “But we’ve never spent this kind of money and effort before, either, so maybe we’ll beat it.”

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003.

This genetic mapping is constantly on the look-out for mutations. Thus far, SARS-CoV-2, the official name for the virus that causes COVID-19, has not mutated as quickly as many others do. Influenza, for instance, changes so much over a year the vaccine has to be retooled every summer to keep up.

But there are enough subtle changes still happening among the 28,000 individual markers that make up a genome for SARS-CoV-2 that cases can be traced backward and linked to the ones that came before. McArthur said it takes a lot of data storage, a lot of high-capacity computer analysis, and a lot of money, to run the comparisons among them all.

The federal government put $40 million on the table in April for genetic research on COVID-19. Half is to keep tabs on the virus as it spreads, look for any changes it undergoes, and map its pathway across the country. The other half is to look at the genetic structures of the patients who get infected, trying to answer the puzzling question of why some people die and others have symptoms so mild they never even know they are sick.

Genome Canada is administering the project, with six regional genomics agencies overseeing the work locally and labs like McArthur’s doing the testing and analysis. The funding is intended to create genetic maps from 150,000 patients. Canada thus far has had about 108,000 positive cases, and the expectation is that almost every one of them will be gene-mapped.

The results will be loaded into a global site comparing all known infections of COVID-19, but also be analyzed for national and regional reports.

In New York, genetic sequencing was used to figure out that COVID-19 in Manhattan wasn’t coming from China and Iran as imagined, but from Europe. In Canada, it is suspected that much of the virus came into this country from travellers returning from the United States in early March. But the work is only now beginning to confirm that belief.

McArthur estimates the first data will be available for Ontario in about four weeks, but warns it will take many more months to complete all of the tests. His lab sequenced 600 samples on Wednesday alone.

Overall, McArthur expects the genetics project to last for two years.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 12, 2020.

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Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

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By Canadian Press

Jul 12, 2020

OTTAWA — Canada’s public health experts have been racing to stop the spread of COVID-19 by trying to figure out how everyone is getting it, and whom they might have given it to.

But even the best efforts over the last four months have left doctors stymied about the source of more than one-third of this country’s known COVID-19 infections.

Now, medical researchers are using supercomputers to turn genetics labs into detective agencies and starting the work to figure out how almost every case in Canada arose.

Andrew McArthur, director of the biomedical discovery and commercialization program at McMaster University, says his group will make a big push over the next month to compare the genetic material from versions of novel coronavirus isolated from blood samples of thousands of Canadians.

Source:- Nanaimo News NOW

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Coronavirus deaths take a long-expected turn for the worse – CityNews Edmonton

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NEW YORK — A long-expected upturn in U.S. coronavirus deaths has begun, driven by fatalities in states in the South and West, according to data on the pandemic.

The number of deaths per day from the virus had been falling for months, and even remained down as states like Florida and Texas saw explosions in cases and hospitalizations — and reported daily U.S. infections broke records several times in recent days.

Scientists warned it wouldn’t last. A coronavirus death, when it occurs, typically comes several weeks after a person is first infected. And experts predicted states that saw increases in cases and hospitalizations would, at some point, see deaths rise too. Now that’s happening.

“It’s consistently picking up. And it’s picking up at the time you’d expect it to,” said William Hanage, a Harvard University infectious diseases researcher.

According to an Associated Press analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University, the seven-day rolling average for daily reported deaths in the U.S. has increased from 578 two weeks ago to 664 on July 10 — still well below the heights hit in April. Daily reported deaths increased in 27 states over that time period, but the majority of those states are averaging under 15 new deaths per day. A smaller group of states has been driving the nationwide increase in deaths.

California is averaging 91 reported deaths per day while Texas is close behind with 66, but Florida, Arizona, Illinois, New Jersey and South Carolina also saw sizable rises. New Jersey’s recent jump is thought to be partially attributable to its less frequent reporting of probable deaths.

The impact has already been felt by families who lost kin — and by the health care workers who tried to save them.

Rublas Ruiz, a Miami intensive care unit nurse, recently broke down in tears during a birthday dinner with his wife and daughter. He said he was overcome by the number of patients who have died in his care.

“I counted like 10 patients in less than four days in our ICU and then I stopped doing that because there were so many,” said the 41-year-old nurse at Kendall Regional Medical Center who lost another patient Monday.

The virus has killed more than 130,000 people in the U.S. and more than a half-million worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University, though the true numbers are believed to be higher.

Deaths first began mounting in the U.S. in March. About two dozen deaths were being reported daily in the middle of that month. By late in the month, hundreds were being reported each day, and in April thousands. Most happened in New York, New Jersey and elsewhere in the Northeast.

Deaths were so high there because it was a new virus tearing through a densely populated area, and it quickly swept through vulnerable groups of people in nursing homes and other places, said Perry Halkitis, the dean of the Rutgers University School of Public Health in New Jersey.

Many of the infections occurred before government officials imposed stay-at-home orders and other social-distancing measures. The daily death toll started falling in mid-April — and continued to fall until about a week ago.

Researchers now expect deaths to rise for at least some weeks, but some think the count probably will not go up as dramatically as it did in the spring — for several reasons.

First, testing was extremely limited early in the pandemic, and it’s become clear that unrecognized infections were spreading on subways, in nursing homes and in other public places before anyone knew exactly what was going on. Now testing is more widespread, and the magnitude of outbreaks is becoming better understood.

Second, many people’s health behaviours have changed, with mask-wearing becoming more common in some places. Although there is no vaccine yet, hospitals are also getting better at treating patients.

Another factor, tragically, is that deadly new viruses often tear through vulnerable populations first, such as the elderly and people already weakened by other heath conditions. That means that, in the Northeast at least, “many of the vulnerable people have already died,” Halkitis said.

Now, the U.S. is likely in for “a much longer, slower burn,” Hanage, the Harvard researcher, said. “We’re not going to see as many deaths (as in the spring). But we’re going to see a total number of deaths, which is going to be large.”

In Houston, Gregory Compean, who owns the Compean Funeral Home, is already seeing the effects. He says it’s odd when he receives a call for someone who didn’t die from the coronavirus.

Families these days, he says, aren’t pushing back on restrictions placed on services.

“Their eyes are wide open, and they’re afraid,” he said. “They’re wanting to co-operate, and I think everyone is concerned at this point because the numbers are going through the roof.”

Kristin Urquiza is worried things may get dramatically worse soon, in at least some cities. Like Phoenix, where her 65-year-old father died recently.

When the dangers of the virus first became known, Mark Anthony Urquiza, a quality assurance inspector, took precautions such as wearing a face mask and staying home as much as possible, his daughter said.

But that changed after Gov. Doug Ducey ended Arizona’s stay-at-home order on May 15, eased restrictions on businesses, and initially blocked local lawmakers from requiring residents to wear masks.

By June 11, the elder Urquiza had developed a fever and cough. He was hospitalized and eventually placed on a ventilator. He died June 30.

“His life was robbed. I believe that terrible leadership and flawed policies put my father’s life in the balance,” Kristin Urquiza said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Ducey, a Republican, has more recently changed direction, closing many businesses and allowing mayors to make mask-wearing mandatory.

But Kristin Urquiza is worried. Her father received the care at a time when beds in intensive care units were readily available. Now some Arizona hospitals ICUs are becoming swamped.

“Other families are not going to be reassured the hospitals will have the capacity to give (coronavirus) victims the dignity and the health care that they deserve. And that breaks my heart,” she said.

___

Associated Press writers Kelli Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Jamie Stengle in Dallas contributed to this report.

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Mike Stobbe And Nicky Forster, The Associated Press

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