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Time to consider expanding to 'social bubbles', says region's top doc – BarrieToday



The region’s medical officer of health is looking forward to some bigger bubbles.

Social bubbles, that is.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s Dr. Charles Gardner says while the province considers relaxing some restrictions and re-opening businesses, the time has also come to consider changes that might have a positive impact on people’s mental and social wellbeing.

“I do think there’s room for us to have a little bit more in the way of social contact in our lives,” he said.

Gardner is hoping to see direction from the province that would allow people to expand their social bubbles to include a few people outside of their household.

“The concept that I’m aware of is a social bubble where you extend from your household to the equivalent of another household, or the equivalent of ten people and now you’ve got that many people you can be close with and it’s mutual,” said Gardner. “They stick with you and you stick with them and there’s nobody else that comes in that bubble.”

It’s a concept that’s been put into practice in other countries, including New Zealand.

It would be different than relaxing rules about gatherings; these would be people you don’t necessarily have to stay two metres away from.

“To me, that’s a critical distinction,” said Gardner. “Everybody else you meet outside the bubble you need to be maintaining that physical distancing.”

Though there is a risk in increasing the number of people who have contact with each other, Gardner said it’s a minimal risk and it’s worth it.

“I’m just enamoured with the idea because I think it has great potential to increase the quality of our lives without creating a significant increased risk,” said Gardner. “While we’re opening up businesses, I do think it’s important that we look at the social aspect of our wellbeing.”

The spread of COVID-19 in Simcoe Muskoka region has plateaued, and there’s a “slight incline” in the number of cases of late, he said.

Gardner said the region was able to flatten the curve thanks to public health measures, and compliance with those measures by the general population.

Between March 15 and April 3, when the region’s growth rate was at its steepest, the reproductive rate of the coronavirus was 1.9. That means every single confirmed case of the virus was infecting 1.9 people.

Had that growth rate continued, there would be 6,900 cases of COVID-19 in the region, according to Gardner.

He said it shows the importance and effectiveness of physical distancing, handwashing, and people staying home more often.

There have been 406 cases confirmed in Simcoe-Muskoka Region since early March. Of those, 32 people have died and a total of 47 people have been hospitalized.

Gardner provided a breakdown of the severe cases today for the first time for media.

He said 78 per cent of the region’s hospitalizations were people who also had pre-existing medical conditions, the most common of which was hypertension (high blood pressure), then diabetes (type 2), and also asthma and obesity.

Fifty-five per cent of the region’s hospitalized cases were people aged 65 or older, and 91 per cent of the 32 deaths reported have been people over 65.

There have been 19 deaths of residents from long-term care facilities, and 97 per cent of the people who died as a result of COVID-19 in Simcoe-Muskoka had a pre-existing medical condition of some kind (for 68 per cent of them it was hypertension).

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Unveiling Covid-19 research scandal – Asia Times



The first research scandal of the coronavirus pandemic has created unnecessary distraction around the politically divisive drug hydroxychloroquine, scientists say, as questions swirl around the tiny health care company at the center of the affair.

On Thursday, most of the authors of major studies that appeared in The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) retracted their work and issued apologies, saying they could no longer vouch for their data after the firm that supplied it – Chicago-based Surgisphere – refused to be audited.

At any other time the matter might have led to hang-wringing within academia, but it has taken on a new dimension as the world grapples with a virus that has claimed some 400,000 lives.

Of particular interest was the paper in The Lancet that claimed to have analyzed the records of 96,032 patients admitted to 671 hospitals across six continents, finding that hydroxychloroquine showed no benefit and even increased the risk of death.

Its withdrawal is seen as a boost to backers of the decades-old anti-malarial drug, who include US President Donald Trump and his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro.

“It’s very politicized – there is a group, probably not particularly small, who have learned to mistrust science and scientists, and this just feeds into that narrative,” Gabe Kelen, a professor of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins University, told AFP.

This is despite the fact that even without The Lancet paper, evidence has been building against hydroxychloroquine’s use against Covid-19.

On Friday, results from a fourth randomized controlled trial – carefully designed human experiments considered the most robust form of clinical investigation – showed it had no impact against the virus.

Mystery company

The Lancet, which first published in 1823, is one of the world’s most trusted medical journals.

As a result, the hydroxychloroquine paper had an outsized impact: the World Health Organization, Britain and France all suspended ongoing clinical trials.

But things soon began unravelling after researchers noticed numerous red flags, from the huge number of patients involved to the unusual level of detail about the doses they had received.

Both The Lancet and the equally prestigious NEJM, which had published a paper on whether blood thinners elevated the risk of Covid-19 that relied on the same company, issued expressions of concern – before the authors themselves pulled both papers.

Surgisphere, founded in 2007 by vascular surgeon Sapan Desai, had refused to share data with third-party reviewers, saying it would violate privacy agreements with hospitals.

However, when science news site The Scientist began reaching out to hospitals throughout the US to ask whether they had participated, it found none.

Surgisphere’s internet profile has also raised numerous questions. Only a handful of employees could be found on LinkedIn, and most have now deactivated their accounts.

According to the Guardian newspaper, its employees included an adult model and until last week the contact page on its website redirected to a WordPress template for a cryptocurrency website, leaving it unclear how hospitals could have reached out to them.

Meanwhile Desai, who according to court records has three outstanding medical malpractice suits against him, has written extensively in the past on research misconduct.

“The most serious cause of fraud in medical publishing is manufactured data that authors use to support high impact conclusions,” he said in a 2013 paper.

Systemic issues

For Ivan Oransky, who founded Retraction Watch in 2010, the affair is far from surprising, serving instead to highlight systemic issues in science publishing and the way science is reported to the public.

“No one took a hard look at the data,” said Oransky. “But we’ve known about these issues for literally decades.”

Policymakers should get away from the idea of using the results of a single study to inform their decisions, he added, as was the case for the WHO – and the media has a responsibility to place papers in context instead of hyping them up.

The problem also stems from the fact that even leading journals rely too heavily on an honor system, but “you never know when a catastrophe is going to happen, if you’re not willing to put into place some reasonable safeguards,” added Oransky.

As to the future, the current episode is unlikely to serve as a wake-up call, he said. If one journal increases its diligence, more blockbuster papers will start appearing in its competitors.


Asia Times Financial is now live. Linking accurate news, insightful analysis and local knowledge with the ATF China Bond 50 Index, the world’s first benchmark cross sector Chinese Bond Indices. Read ATF now. 

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Small percentage of Ottawa residents infected with COVID-19: Ottawa Public Health – CTV News Ottawa



Ottawa Public Health is reminding residents that COVID-19 is still circulating in our community, and everyone needs to do their part to help limit the spread of the virus.  

Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brent Moloughney says Ottawa Public Health estimates approximately one per cent of Ottawa residents have been infected with novel coronavirus.

“Through everyone’s actions, we’ve been successful in reducing the number of infections that would have otherwise occurred,” said Dr. Moloughney.

“Overall, we estimate that only a small percentage of Ottawans have been infected with COVID so far, perhaps as low as one per cent but perhaps a bit higher.”

As of Thursday, Ottawa Public Health reported 1,985 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa, including 248 deaths.

“Regardless of the specific number through, the key implication is that the vast majority of us remain susceptible to infection,” said Dr. Moloughney, noting the new cases reported daily show COVID-19 is still circulating in the community.

“In order to track cases within Ottawa and to limit transmission, please seek testing if you think you may be infected with the virus.”

The Ontario Government announced in May that asymptomatic residents of Ontario could present for COVID-19 testing.  Ottawa Public Health says residents can visit the COVID-19 Assessment Centre at Brewer Arena and the two COVID-19 care clinics for testing.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches says the data from the expanded testing criteria has been “educational” as more people present for COVID-19 testing.

“What we’ve found was as the number of people tested grew, we didn’t find a lot more cases. That per cent positivity hasn’t grown,” said Dr. Etches.

“It’s telling us that population out there without symptoms, the general population, may not be where we’re going to find most of our cases.”

The medical officer of health says Ottawa Public Health and health officials in eastern Ontario will test all staff in long-term care homes twice in June.  That would be 8,000 COVID-19 tests this month.

“Our goal is to use all of the testing capacity we have,” said Dr. Etches, adding Ottawa Public Health will look to “test in a smart way”, including workplaces and congregate care settings.

Limit your contacts

With warm weather in the forecast for the weekend, Ottawa Public Health is reminding people to practice physical distancing and limit interactions with people outside your household.

“As more activities become possible, the new normal will be to consider how risky an activity is and how you can reduce the risk of transmission for yourself, your family and others,” said Dr. Moloughney.

“In general, outdoor activities are less risky than indoor ones. The more people that are involved and the closer the contact, the higher the risk.”

Ottawa Public Health has issued a graphic looking at “least safe options” and “safer options” for activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Coronavirus: Two new cases in Winnipeg Friday brings total to 300 –



This story will be updated as the press conference continues.

Two new cases of the novel coronavirus were announced Friday, both of them in Winnipeg.

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The latest cases include one man in his 20s, and another in his 30s, according to the province. One is a truck driver, and the other man was a close contact.

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As of Thursday an additional 671 laboratory tests for the virus were performed. The total number of tests performed since early February is now 47,372.

“Each Manitoban is going to have to decide the level of risk they’re going to take [going forward],” said Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial health officer.

But people who are sick should still stay home, he said.

Roussin added workplaces need to look at their policies and practices when it comes to staying home because they’re ill.

“We need to make it easy as possible … the alternative is people come to work sick.”

Lanette Siragusa reminded people that hospitals and health care centres will start allowing a designated visitor, but some may not start until Monday or later.

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Shared Health’s Chief Nursing Officer said people should call before they go.

Safety officers heading to Manitoba beaches amid COVID-19, no new cases reported Thursday

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

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