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The truth about the drug Trump thinks is a miracle coronavirus cure



As to be expected, President Donald Trump took to Twitter over the weekend to try to ease public fears about COVID-19 by promoting several experimental drug treatments. In an all-caps tweet, Trump urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to “move fast” to approve a combination of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug, and azithromycin, an antibiotic, as a potential treatment for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. On Twitter, Trump served as hypeman for this medical cocktail, writing that these drugs “have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine.”


For someone with no background in medicine, Trump is weirdly convinced of the efficacy of these drugs. Last week, in a press conference, Trump said he felt “good” about the possibility of chloroquine, another related anti-malaria drug, and hydroxychloroquine as potential treatment for COVID-19. Today, he shared an article from the New York Post about a man surviving COVID-19 thanks to hydroxychloroquine. Yet anecdotes should not be confused for statistics; most scientists, researchers and doctors will tell you that one anecdotal story from the New York Post does not constitute clinical evidence that any of these drugs can, or should, be used to treat COVID-19.

According to a study published on the web site bioRxiv, there have been 69 drugs identified, including chloroquine, that could treat the respiratory disease that has caused 16,359 deaths and mass economic disruption worldwide. The World Health Organization is looking into both hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine as possible ways to slow or kill the virus, but there are plenty of unknowns that prevent it from being a “game changer,” as Trump called it. Science magazine details the concerns in a recent report. Similar to Trump’s previous dangerous rhetoric, his claims have the possibility to cause more harm than good. As NPR reported, some pharmacists are concerned about people hoarding the drugs. “Our members are definitely seeing more demand for this medication and possibly some people trying to hoard the medication,” Todd Brown, executive director of the Massachusetts Independent Pharmacists Association, told NPR. “Pharmacists are seeing an increase in requests and prescriptions for them, in instances where it’s not clear why the patient needs it at this time.” Health officials in Nigeria said that three people have overdosed on the drug.


Salon spoke with Rodney J.Y. Ho, a professor and director of the Targeted, Long-acting and Combination Anti-Retroviral Therapy (TLC-ART) program at the University of Washington, about both hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine as potential drugs to treat COVID-19.

As usual, this conversation has been edited for clarity.

First, what are these drugs?


Chloroquine is the original malaria drug that was introduced many many years ago. And it’s been distributed widely in malaria-rampant areas. Hydroxychloroquine is slightly different, so it has additional benefits [as a treatment]. People found out over time that hydroxychloroquine can be used for rheumatoid arthritis. Another way people use it is for lupus. The difference is that hydroxychloroquine, [as] you can read in the name, has been oxygenated.


So chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are both malaria drugs. You’ve probably heard about this from people that they’re accessible because they are FDA approved. But it’s not a drug that you buy over the counter, it’s a pill that’s prescribed— so that’s a very important distinction — because that means it has side effects that need to be managed by pharmacists and by relations.


And what are those side effects?


So there are many different side effects, but the big ones are when it’s taken with another drug. So it can be as simple as being on a contraceptive that can change the drug levels, then that becomes toxic, so that’s what needed to be managed.


So what do we know about how these drugs treat COVID-19?


We can kill the virus at the level that can be achieved in patients taking hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine in their blood.  Based on that, people have been using it as one of the four or five experimental medications [but] because it’s not proven, nothing has been tested thoroughly by the FDA. But because it’s available by prescription and it’s a pill, you can order it.


So because it shows promise in a test tube, does that mean it can be that success can be easily transferred to a human body?


The virus can kill people in many different ways. [We can observe that it is] killed in the test tube, [but] then you need to go through a long test to make sure that [it will happen] in the patient at the right stage, and the right place that you can use this [drug]. And we don’t know that yet. And what other things that the virus is doing, we don’t know.

What we do know is that the virus will kill the lung cells. Our lung cells are very big. Think of lung cells as balloons with pockets of cells inside them. These cells are loaded with blood. That’s how we exchange oxygen. So when the lung cells are infected, they will kill and collapse those balloons. At some stage, the whole lungs collapse and other cells attack the immune system. So, that’s when the hydroxychloroquine might have an effect, but the question is, when is there no point of return? And we don’t know that yet. So you can imagine the complications of how to treat this virus, and when to treat it. We don’t know how long and how quickly people can die from this — we need to help them by isolating and preventing the number of infections.


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26 new cases of coronavirus identified in Nova Scotia, more options for testing announced –



As of Sunday, 26 new cases of novel coronavirus were identified in Nova Scotia, bringing the total number of cases in the province to 262.

According to the province, the patients having confirmed cases so far range in age from under 10 to over 90.

Six individuals are currently in hospital while 53 individuals have now recovered and their cases of COVID-19 are considered resolved.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: 29 new cases confirmed in Nova Scotia

The new cases were identified on Saturday at the QEII Health Sciences Centre’s microbiology lab after 592 Nova Scotia tests were completed.

The province also noted that most of the confirmed cases have been connected to travel or a known case, but some are the result of community spread.

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“This is expected and why the testing strategy continues to be adjusted,” said the province.

READ MORE: COVID-19 pandemic taking toll on Canadians’ mental health: survey

Part of that adjustment is increasing lab capacity, which according to the government, will have processing at the lab move to 24/7 operations as of Monday.

“This disease is in our communities and that’s why we are adjusting our testing strategy,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, at a press briefing on Sunday.

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As QEII Health Sciences Centre’s microbiology lab begins its 24/operation, Strang said they’d be able to carry up to 1,000 tests a day.

Canada may be missing thousands of coronavirus cases, experts say

He also announced that as of Sunday more options for testing of COVID-19 will be available to help identify spread within Nova Scotia communities.

Coronavirus outbreak: Young people warn others their age to take COVID-19 seriously

Coronavirus outbreak: Young people warn others their age to take COVID-19 seriously

The province is working with the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) and Emergency Health Services (EHS) to establish temporary primary assessment centres, EHS assessment units, and a mobile assessment centre.

“The temporary assessment centres will be in communities where there are increased disease activities,” said Strang.

He also said that the first temporary assessment centre opened Sunday, in Elmsdale where there’s currently increased disease activity.

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But like the other assessment centres, people must be referred by 811 first. Those directed to an assessment centre will have a physical assessment onsite and swabbed if appropriate.

READ MORE: IWK staff self-isolating, Aberdeen Hospital halts surgeries after COVID-19 exposures

“Expanding our testing options means we have the ability to act quickly if we’re seeing clusters of disease in communities or locations and ensures we’re able to accommodate vulnerable Nova Scotians and those living in harder-to-reach communities,” said Strang.

There are currently two mobile units, one in the Halifax Regional Municipality and one for the most populated areas of Cape Breton Regional Municipality, staffed by paramedics trained to do at-home testing.

According to Strang, the mobile units would be used for people who have mobility issues and cannot get to an assessment centre or in situations where a cluster of testing needs to be done, for example at a long-term care home.

“This virus is in our communities, it’s dangerous and it’s up to all of us to slow it down,” said Premier Stephen McNeil. “Expanding testing will help us identify and respond more quickly to spread in communities but the best defence continues to be following the public health orders.

“People need to stay home.”

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent

spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Nova Scotia identifies 26 new cases of COVID-19, bringing total to 262 –



Twenty-six new cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Nova Scotia, bringing the province’s total to 262. 

Of the confirmed cases, 24 are in the eastern region, 25 are in the northern region, 38 are in the western region and 175 are in the central region. 

People with COVID-19 in Nova Scotia range in age from under 10 to over 90. Six people are currently in hospital, while 53 people have recovered and their cases are considered resolved. 

On Sunday, Shannex said it was notified by public health officials that employees at Arborstone Enhanced Care in Halifax and Harris Hall in Dartmouth have tested positive for COVID-19. 

“(Management teams)  are receiving support from our COVID-19 Response Team, which includes our Infection Prevention and Control Specialist and Occupational Health, Safety and Wellness team members, to ensure all residents and team members are following proper precautions with the health and safety of our residents and team members as our highest priority,” Shannex said in a statement posted to its website

Most cases in Nova Scotia have been connected to travel or a known case, but “it is now known there is community spread,” the Health Department said in a news release Sunday. 

“This is expected and why the testing strategy continues to be adjusted. Part of that is increasing lab capacity.” 

The QEII Health Science Centre’s microbiology lab in Halifax will move to 24/7 operations on Monday. 

To date, Nova Scotia has 9,510 negative results.

The province’s state of emergency declared two weeks ago has been recently extended to April 19. 

“It is now more important than ever for Nova Scotians to strictly adhere to the public health orders and directives – practise good hygiene, maintain a physical distance of two metres or six feet from others, limit essential gatherings to no more than five people and stay at home as much as possible,” the release said. 

A news conference with Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health, and Premier Stephen McNeil will be held at 3 p.m. today. 

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COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia rise to 262, including 2 health-care workers –



Nova Scotia has announced 26 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the provincial total to 262.

Cases have been identified in individuals under 10 and over 90, including two staff at Nova Scotia hospitals and two long-term care employees.

Six people are now in hospital with the virus and 53 have recovered. 

Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, are scheduled to provide an update on the coronavirus outbreak at 3 p.m. Sunday. Video will be livestreamed in this story.

Two new cases among long-term care employees

Two of the new cases include staff at two long-term care facilities.

The individuals are employees at Arborstone Enhanced Care in Halifax and Harris Hall in Dartmouth, which are both owned by Shannex.

An additional case was confirmed at Shannex’s Jubilee Hall-Concorde Hall in Quispamsis, N.B.

Last week, Shannex announced one case among employees at its private retirement-living community in Dartmouth. An employee at the R.K MacDonald Nursing Home in Antigonish also tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

It was also confirmed last week that three staff and two residents at the Magnolia resident care home in Enfield have also tested positive. 

Health-care workers exposed

Two cases of COVID-19 have been identified among staff at Nova Scotia hospitals — the IWK Health Centre in Halifax and Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow — and some health-care workers have been ordered to self-isolate because of close contact with their infected colleagues.

A spokesperson for the IWK said the infected staff member is a health-care worker, and hospital staff were investigating any possible exposure to patients.

The case at the IWK is not expected to impact patient care or service delivery.

A park in Dartmouth is taped off on Sunday. The sign delivers the premier’s message. (CBC)

The Nova Scotia Health Authority has not released the role of the staff member from Aberdeen Hospital who tested positive for the virus, but some patients could have been exposed. The NSHA is working to identify and contact any affected patients.

Neither health authority would say how many staff were under self-isolation orders. They said affected staff were being tested.

Service disruptions at Aberdeen Hospital

The NSHA said the case at Aberdeen Hospital has caused a stoppage of all surgical, and labour and delivery services.

Patients with urgent and emergency orthopedic needs are being sent to the Halifax Infirmary, and emergency general surgery cases are being diverted to Colchester East Hants Health Centre in Truro.

Labour and delivery care will be transferred from Aberdeen to Colchester East Hants or St. Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish, depending on the patient’s location.

The health authorities confirmed the cases Sunday, two weeks after the premier declared a state of emergency, ordering citizens to stay home as much as possible and to keep a distance of two metres from other people.

Under the public health measures, police have the authority to ticket anyone who fails to abide by physical distancing orders or who continues to use parks, trails and beaches, most of which are now closed.

In his near-daily COVID-19 updates, McNeil has been doling out stern warnings for the public to abide by the restrictions, calling those who flout the orders “reckless.”

Dozens of tickets issued for flouting public health orders

Last week, McNeil ordered police to increase enforcement. Ahead of the weekend, he appealed for people to “stay the blazes home.”

The plea struck a chord with many, who turned the phrase into memes, songs and merchandise, but it apparently didn’t affect everyone. On Saturday, Halifax police told CBC News they’d handed out dozens of tickets for violations under the Emergency Management Act and the Health Protection Act.

Fines for those violations range from almost $700 for individuals to up to $10,000 for businesses.


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