Health officials are warning that the monkeypox virus may be spreading in Saskatchewan, after several out-of-province cases have been linked back to the province as a place of exposure.
The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Tuesday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
8 a.m. The Greek Olympic team says the outbreak of COVID-19 cases among its artistic swimmers has ruled them out of competing at the Tokyo Games.
Three new cases were reported Tuesday and the entire artistic swimming squad was asked to leave the Olympic Village. Only one case had been previously confirmed.
The Greek team says they are all staying at a quarantine hotel. Greece was due to compete in the duet and team events.
7:40 a.m. The quickly approaching fall semester has America’s colleges under pressure to decide how far they should go to guard their campuses against COVID-19 while navigating legal and political questions and rising infection rates.
Hundreds of colleges nationwide have told students in recent months they must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before classes begin.
California State University, the country’s largest four-year public university system, joined the list last week, along with Michigan State University and the University of Michigan. Their announcements cited concerns about the highly contagious delta variant and came as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued updated mask guidelines based on new research regarding its spread.
CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro called case surges linked to the variant an “alarming new factor that we must consider as we look to maintain the health and well-being of students, employees and visitors.”
Yet many more colleges have held off on vaccine mandates in a reflection of the limits school leaders face in adopting safety requirements for in-person classes.
In many Republican-led states, governments have banned vaccine mandates, or school leaders face political pressure to limit their anti-virus actions even among students who live in packed residence halls. Opponents say the requirements tread on personal freedoms.
Some campuses have sidestepped pushback by instead offering enticements, such as prize drawings for free tuition and computers, as they seek to boost student vaccination rates to 80 per cent or higher.
And a few have gone against the grain of their GOP-led states, such as Nova Southeastern in Florida requiring employees to get the shots and Nebraska Wesleyan mandating vaccinations for its 2,000 students.
Private colleges like these have more legal leeway regarding coronavirus rules, experts say. Prominent private universities mandating student vaccinations include Harvard, Yale, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Duke and Stanford.
6:40 a.m. Barack Obama is turning 60 on Wednesday and he’s marking the milestone with a celebration.
The Obamas are hosting an outdoor party in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, to celebrate the former president’s birthday with friends, family and former staff members, a person familiar with the situation but not authorized to speak publicly told USA TODAY. In order to promote safety, guests are required to adhere to all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public health protocols, including a testing regimen managed by a COVID-19 coordinator.
Concerns about COVID-19 transmission reignited after the delta coronavirus variant caused a sharp spike in cases around the country in recent weeks. For the first time in more than three months, cases in the U.S. average more than 60,000 per day, according to USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.
The Obamas have been strong advocates for the vaccine, emphasizing “the need and the urgency of our communities getting vaccinated” in a video with Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley in April and getting vaccinated themselves one month earlier.
6:25 a.m. Tokyo is experiencing a record surge in COVID-19 cases during the Olympic Games as the more infectious Delta variant rips through Japan, though contagion among those linked to the event appears to be relatively contained so far.
To date, organizers have announced 294 positive cases among people connected to the Olympics, including 25 athletes out of the more than 11,000 who are expected to participate. Of over 400,000 tests conducted so far on athletes and stakeholders, the positivity rate has been only 0.02 per cent, organizers said on Tuesday.
“There is a separation between the athletes and the various stakeholders, and the general population,” Mark Adams, International Olympic Committee spokesperson, told reporters Monday. “You can’t reduce the risk to zero, but we have with the playbooks pretty well covered the ability to reduce that risk as far as we can.”
The so-called playbooks set out COVID-prevention measures and rules for each Olympics participant including athletes, officials and media.
Breaking down the category of people with positive test results, the largest numbers are among Tokyo 2020 contractors — third-party personnel who are contracted to the games to provide various services — and games-concerned people, who include those affiliated with the IOC, National Olympic Committees and Olympic Broadcasting Services. There have been a cumulative 153 and 89 cases in those categories, respectively.
While athletes in the Olympic Village are required to test daily, requirements are less strict for volunteers who have less contact with athletes. The rules are also harsher for those flying in from overseas, compared to Japanese residents.
5:55 a.m. The United States on Monday finally reached President Joe Biden’s goal of having 70 per cent of eligible adults at least partly vaccinated.
The milestone came a month later than Biden had hoped as the country faced the rapid spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.
There was no celebration at the White House. The announcement was made on Twitter by Cyrus Shahpar, the COVID-19 data director for the Biden administration. “Let’s continue working to get more eligible vaccinated!” Shahpar wrote.
The White House had hoped to announce the 70 per cent vaccination bench mark four weeks ago. Biden initially used Independence Day to declare a victory of sorts over the pandemic and some kind of return to normal life.
But that goal evaporated in recent weeks as the Delta variant spread rapidly, putting pressure on hospitals in regions with low vaccination rates, including many politically conservative areas in the south. Southern Missouri and northern Arkansas, for instance, have been hard hit, swamping hospitals.
In recent weeks, there has been an uptick in the vaccination rate in some states where cases have crested. Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana and Florida have seen steady increases.
5:45 a.m. Florida leads the U.S. in another alarming coronavirus statistic: kids hospitalized with COVID-19.
Florida had 32 pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations per day between July 24 and 30, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adjusted for population, that’s 0.76 kids hospitalized per 100,000 residents, the highest rate in the country.
The Florida Department of Health reported 10,785 new COVID-19 infections among children under 12 between July 23 and 29. That’s an average of 1,540 new cases per day.
The surge is worse for children who are eligible for the vaccine — 11,048 new cases among those ages 12 to 19 in the same week.
Last Friday’s state data shows seven deaths among children under 16 since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Florida stopped reporting COVID-19 deaths by age group to the CDC on July 17.
Dr. Claudia Espinosa, pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of South Florida, said that she is deeply concerned about cases spiking when kids return to school this month. Hundreds of thousands of kids across the state will soon pack themselves into school buses, classrooms and cafeterias.
“I’m terrified of what’s going to happen,” she said.
Pediatric hospitalizations are the latest sign of the resurgent pandemic’s hold on Florida. Last week, the state accounted for nearly one out of every four new infections and hospitalizations in the nation, according to the CDC. State data shows Florida averaged more than 15,780 infections a day over the most recent seven-day period.
Tampa Bay pediatric hospitals are seeing those higher admissions themselves. Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg diagnosed 113 COVID-19 cases in the first three and a half weeks of July, while the hospital only had 11 infections in the entire month of June, said Dr. Joseph Perno, the hospital’s vice president of medical affairs.
Every week in July set a new weekly record for the most cases the hospital has seen during the pandemic, Perno said.
The age range of infected patients is evenly spread between young children and teenagers. And the vast majority of them are unvaccinated, said Dr. Allison Messina, the hospital’s chairman of the Division of Infectious Disease. Children 11 and under cannot yet get the vaccine.
Pediatric COVID-19 patients in BayCare’s 15 Florida hospitals doubled in July compared to June, after two months of declining case numbers, said hospital system spokesperson Lisa Razler.
The vast majority of infected pediatric patients are hospitalized at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa, Razler said, one of the six BayCare facilities that paused elective surgeries requiring overnight stays to make more beds available for COVID-19 patients.
While infected children are at less risk of serious illness then adults, Messina said they can still develop serious long-term complications, Messina said.
Multisystem inflammatory syndrome is an autoimmune disease that targets school-aged children and can occur two to six weeks after a coronavirus infection. Symptoms include fever, rashes, red eye, and diarrhea and vomiting. If left untreated, Messina said, the illness can be fatal or cause permanent heart damage.
5:33 a.m. Chinese authorities have announced mass coronavirus testing in Wuhan as an unusually wide series of COVID-19 outbreaks reached the city where the disease was first detected in late 2019.
The provincial capital of 11 million people in central China is the latest city to undergo city-wide testing. Three cases were confirmed in Wuhan on Monday, its first non-imported cases in more than a year.
China has largely curbed COVID-19 at home after the initial outbreak that devastated Wuhan and spread globally. Since then, authorities have tamped down and controlled the disease whenever it pops up with quick lockdowns and mass testing.
The current outbreaks are still in the hundreds of cases in total, but have spread much more widely than previous ones. Many of the cases have been identified as the highly contagious delta variant.
The National Health Commission said Tuesday that 90 new cases had been confirmed the previous day.
5 a.m. Ontario’s back-to-school plan will be front and centre this week as the province announces what protocols will be in place so boards can get ready to welcome kids back to in-person learning in just five weeks.
With the government set to announce details as early as Tuesday, questions remain as to what the school year will look like, if the province has taken the advice of pediatric experts — and what has taken so long for the plan to be released.
While most of Ontario’s two million students are set to resume classes in person after Labour Day, some schools, on a modified calendar such as Peel’s Roberta Bondar elementary and York’s Bill Crothers secondary, are returning this week.
Tuesday 4 a.m. The Manitoba government is to announce changes Tuesday to its COVID-19 restrictions.
Premier Brian Pallister and the province’s chief public health officer are scheduled to hold a news conference on the updated orders.
Manitoba is running ahead of its vaccination targets, with roughly 80 per cent of people ages 12 and up having at least one dose and more than 70 per cent having two.
The current rules include a 50 per cent capacity limit at stores, museums, restaurants and gyms.
Casinos, bingo halls, movie theatres and some other facilities are open only to people who are fully vaccinated.
Household visits are also capped at five people in addition to residents of a home.
Monday 7 p.m. U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina tweeted Monday he has tested positive for coronavirus, months after he was vaccinated.
The Republican senator said he started having flu-like symptoms Saturday night and went to the doctor Monday to be tested.
Graham described his symptoms as “mild,” and said his symptoms feel like he has a sinus infection.
He tweeted he will quarantine for the next 10 days, and, despite his diagnosis, is glad he was vaccinated.
“I was just informed by the House physician I have tested positive for #COVID19 even after being vaccinated. I started having flu-like symptoms Saturday night and went to the doctor this morning,” Graham tweeted. “I feel like I have a sinus infection and at present time I have mild symptoms. I will be quarantining for ten days. I am very glad I was vaccinated because without vaccination I am certain I would not feel as well as I do now. My symptoms would be far worse.”
Graham’s diagnosis is among the rising breakthrough cases reported across the country where vaccinated people are testing positive for the virus due to the rise in the delta variant.
South Carolina has also has reported a spike in cases during the past few weeks, seeing its most cases since February.
Monday 6:30 p.m. The positivity rate for COVID-19 testing in Quebec reached 1.4 per cent on Sunday — the highest it’s been since late May.
New COVID-19 infections are also on the rise, according to the Health Department. Officials reported 154 new cases of COVID-19 Monday and 347 new infections identified on Friday and Saturday. Quebec has reported an average of 139 new cases a day over the past seven days, up from an average of 57 a week prior.
Dr. Donald Vinh, an infectious disease specialist at the McGill University Health Centre, says the trends are concerning. The rising positivity rate in the province “means that there is still ongoing community transmission,” he said in an interview Monday.
He is also concerned because Quebec’s rate on Sunday reflected fewer overall tests compared with late May. On May 31, Quebec recorded a test positivity rate of 1.5 per cent based on 15,783 tests. On Sunday, Quebec analyzed 11,202 tests.
The big question, Vinh said, is whether the jump in the positivity rate is a sign Quebecers should expect cases to rise even more in late August and September, when classes at schools, junior colleges and universities resume. “If it’s already increased when we are in the ‘safe’ outdoors, what’s going to happen when we’re in the indoors? That’s where the concern is,” he said.
Despite the rise in cases, deaths and hospitalizations linked to the novel coronavirus haven’t followed suit.
The Health Department, which no longer provides COVID-19 updates on weekends, said no deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus have been reported in the province since Thursday. It said the number of those hospitalized increased by one since its last report, to 61, and 17 people were in intensive care — unchanged since Friday’s update.
Health officials said 38,247 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered Sunday and Quebec’s public health institute reported that 84.6 per cent of residents 12 and up have received at least one dose of vaccine while 68 per cent are adequately vaccinated.
Dr. André Veillette, an immunologist at the Montreal Clinical Research Institute and member of the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine task force, said it’s likely the number of active COVID-19 cases in the province is higher than testing data suggests.
“I think we should be worried, but I think that what we should be even more worried about is that we’re not worried enough,” Veillette said. “We’ve all become a little bit complacent.”
Veillette said the rise in cases in the province is likely the result of the more contagious Delta variant of the virus.
Data from Quebec’s public health institute on Monday, however, indicates the percentage of positive COVID-19 cases involving variants dropped the week ending July 24, compared with the prior week. But Judith Fafard, a medical microbiologist at the Institut national de santé publique du Québec, said that data is incomplete.
It takes time, she explained, for results to be gathered and processed from the province’s decentralized laboratory network. The most reliable data on variants comes from the week ending July 17, which showed a rise in the percentage of cases involving the Delta variant from the prior week.
The percentage of cases involving the Alpha variant — which accounted for more than 80 per cent of all COVID-19 cases in Quebec in mid-May — has also been dropping since the last week of that month, she said.
“It would be surprising if we were any different from England, the other provinces and the United States, so what’s replacing Alpha is probably the Delta variant,” she said.
“We know that the Delta variant is in Quebec and that it is growing.”
Just as COVID-19 began its life as a mysterious virus that crossed over from an animal to humans, it is natural that the public might look at other emergent zoonotic viruses with similar wariness. This, perhaps, explains the recent attention paid to a new Langya virus outbreak in China that has already infected 35 people. Could this lead to another global pandemic?
Fortunately, that is very unlikely, experts say. Unfortunately, that does not mean that the virus is not a threat, as a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that there were 35 infections in a pair of eastern Chinese provinces in 2021.
Yet one reason not to be alarmed is, quite simply, that none of those patients died. Another lies in the nature of the Langya virus itself: It does not appear to have spread through human-to-human contact, and the infected patients all had close contact with animals like fruit bats and shrews, which were likely the original hosts.
“There are clearly repeated transmission events from what looks to be a common reservoir in shrews,” Vaughn Cooper, an evolutionary biology professor at the University of Pittsburgh, told NBC News. “The team did a very nice job of evaluating alternatives and finding that as the most likely explanation.”
Yet while this virus does not seem to pose a global threat, it is part of a classification of viruses with a long and ugly history. They are known as henipaviruses.
Want more health and science stories in your inbox? Subscribe to Salon’s weekly newsletter The Vulgar Scientist.
Henipaviruses are negative-strand RNA viruses that are commonly found in mammals like shrews and fruit bats. Some henipaviruses are very dangerous; the Nipah virus, for instance, has a fatality rate between 40% and 75%. In addition to causing fevers, headaches, coughing and other flu-like symptoms, the Nipah virus can lead to serious side effects like brain swelling (encephalitis), seizures and even comas. Then there is the Hendra virus which has a fatality rate of 57% for the humans that it infects, bringing with it symptoms that can as with the Nipah virus also seem flu-like — and, likewise, can lead to brain swelling and death.
While the Langya virus does not appear to be a global threat, other henipaviruses do pose large problems on the regional level. A February article in the scientific journal PLOS: Neglected Tropical Diseases had this observation about the Nipah virus (NiV).
“Malaysia (43%), Bangladesh (42%), and India (15%) represent all incident cases of human NiV infections worldwide,” the authors explained. “Apart from the human catastrophe of high morbidity and mortality rates during documented epidemic outbreaks, the economic impact is tremendous. After the first NiV outbreak in 1999, Malaysian pig industry and related sectors suffered enormous damage, i.e., 1.1 million pigs were culled costing about US$66.8 million with a total decrease in the Malaysian economy of around 30% during that time.”
The authors also said that a global spread could arise from henipaviruses that can be spread through person-to-person transmission — such as NiV.
“The capacity for NiV to spread in hospital settings between staff and patients was shown in an outbreak 2001 in Siliguri, India, which affected 66 people,” the authors wrote. “The outbreak originated from an unidentified patient admitted to Siliguri District Hospital who infected 11 people. Thus, the ability of NiV to spread from patients to nursing staff has raised concern that the virus might adapt to more efficient human-to-human transmission.”
about this topic
Health officials are warning that the monkeypox virus may be spreading in Saskatchewan, after several out-of-province cases have been linked back to the province as a place of exposure.
Chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab issued a public advisory about the virus on Saturday, asking people to be aware of the symptoms and to be diligent in seeking testing.
Three cases have been reported in Saskatchewan since early July, Shahab said, all linked to out-of-province transmission or travel.
Shahab said that in-province transmission has now been detected and reported by out-of-province travellers who were exposed in Saskatchewan, prompting the advisory.
“We’re at a stage where we think people are at high risk,” said Shahab. “We think the situation has changed in the last week (and) there is higher risk that we may see ongoing transmission in Saskatchewan.”
Monkeypox is transmitted primarily through prolonged skin-to-skin or face-to-face contact or with items like bedsheets or other surfaces contaminated by a person while infectious. A person can remain infectious for 5 to 21 days after exposure to the virus, said public health.
Shahab said that transmission without close contact or with an asymptomatic person “is rare,” but public health is still looking to raise awareness about the virus.
He said it’s extremely important for people to know about transmission risk and visible symptoms to help keep the outbreak manageable.
“All of us should be aware of monkeypox symptoms right now, but especially if you think you’ve been in close contact,” said Shahab.
Transmission so far has been reported in the LGBTQ2S+ and men who have sex with men (MSM) communities, which are currently considered to be at high risk for exposure to the virus.
People are advised to be especially cautious with anonymous sexual partners, and to be conscientious about monitoring for symptoms.
“It’s very hard to let people know if you’ve had (anonymous) contact,” said Shahab. “It is advisable while this outbreak is happening to limit the number of partners and avoid having anonymous partners that are hard to contact.”
With risk of transmission rising, Shahab said that the province is making the monkeypox vaccine more available.
Vaccine eligibility previously included only adult individuals who had already been in contact with monkeypox. Criteria will now expand to include individuals pre-exposure, who are considered to be at high risk.
“Having this more focused approach has really helped (other jurisdictions) get ahead of the outbreak,” said Shahab. “We hope that by taking this approach in Saskatchewan, we can try to avoid a quick or high surge of cases.”
High risk individuals, according to public health, must be transgender, identify as two-spirit, bisexual, gay or MSM, and have either recently had a sexually transmitted infection, had or plan to have sexual contact with one or more partners within the last six months, or plan to travel to an area that is reporting monkeypox cases within the next three months.
The vaccine is currently delivered as one dose but could become a multi-dose immunization as public health follows recommendations made by the National Advisory Committee for Immunization.
Shahab said that when the federal government deployed 99,000 doses to provinces and territories, Saskatchewan was allotted 150 doses and has used seven to date, but more is on the way.
“We have ordered additional vaccines now that we are offering pre-exposure prophylaxis (and) we will continue to do so on demand,” said Shahab.
People are strongly encouraged to contact HealthLine 811 with concerns about potential exposure, symptoms or vaccine questions, in order to facilitate testing.
“It is important to seek testing, exactly for the reason that we don’t want to miss cases,” said Shahab.
Testing volumes are currently low, said Shahab, but people are encouraged to seek testing if they have any concerns.
“We are monitoring the situation very closely, and we feel that so far that we haven’t missed any cases,” said Shahab. “We just want to do everything we can in that initial surge, and keep case numbers low.”
Approximately 30,000 cases have been reported globally since the outbreak began in April, with around 1,000 cases identified in Canada, primarily in Quebec and Ontario but also in Alberta, B.C. and Saskatchewan.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Friday that wastewater analysis may be utilized to track transmission rates for monkeypox, similar to COVID-19. World Health Organization declared the virus an international emergency on July 23.
Shahab that tool is not currently in use in Saskatchewan, as case numbers remain too low, but could be used if necessary.
“If there was concern we were missing transmission, wastewater would be useful,” said Shahab.
The news seems to be flying at us faster all the time. From COVID-19 updates to politics and crime and everything in between, it can be hard to keep up. With that in mind, the Regina Leader-Post has created an Afternoon Headlines newsletter that can be delivered daily to your inbox to help make sure you are up to date with the most vital news of the day. Click here to subscribe.
Laura Osman, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, August 12, 2022 2:53PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, August 12, 2022 4:53PM EDT
OTTAWA – Plans are underway to sift through Canadian sewage to test for and measure monkeypox, polio and other potential health threats, the country’s chief public health officer said Friday.
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, wastewater detection became a key way to track the spread of the virus, especially as free lab tests for individuals were phased out for all but a few in later waves.
Dr. Theresa Tam said the experts at the National Microbiology Lab have now discovered a promising approach to detect monkeypox in wastewater and will use the infrastructure developed during the pandemic to look for it.
“Moving forwards, it could form part of our monitoring of the disease activity going up and down across the country,” Tam said at a media briefing.
Tam said the method is complicated, but they’ve landed on something that can “probably” be used more broadly. How that monitoring fits into the Public Health Agency of Canada’s surveillance efforts on monkeypox is not yet clear.
The monkeypox disease comes from the same family of viruses that cause smallpox, which the World Health Organization declared eradicated around the globe in 1980.
Cases of monkeypox began to appear around the world in non-endemic countries in May.
Just this week the number of Canadian cases surpassed 1,000, though there are early signs the virus may now be spreading at a slower rate, Tam said.
The Public Health Agency of Canada also intends to start testing for polio as “soon as possible” after U.S. health officials found the polio virus in New York City’s wastewater.
The devastating virus was eradicated from Canada in 1994 and until very recently has not been found in the United States since 1993. Cases have now freshly emerged in Western nations with traditionally high rates of vaccinated people.
A positive case was discovered in New York last month.
The presence of the polio virus in the city’s wastewater suggests the virus is likely circulated locally, health authorities from the city, New York state and the U.S. federal government said Friday.
“We’re already starting to look at what the options are,” Tam said of monitoring for polio in Canada.
Polio tests are just now coming online in Ontario, said Eric Arts, a microbiology and immunology professor at Western University.
The COVID-19 pandemic proved how useful waste can be compared to person-by-person tests, he said, especially when it comes to early detection.
“Instead of testing hundreds of thousands of people kind of randomly to determine if they’re infected with a specific pathogen, or one that we don’t even know is circulating, you can just get a wastewater sample and test 100,000 people with one test,” he said.
Wastewater surveillance can be adapted for other things as well, she said. Even before the pandemic, Tam said the public health agency was looking at ways to scan for antimicrobial resistant organisms, or superbugs as they’re often called.
Wastewater detection is still imperfect though, Tam warned.
“You’re dealing with a slurry of many things with a lot of DNA, RNA, all sorts of things,” Tam said, putting it politely.
That slurry includes countless viruses and virus mutations. Some vaccines, like the oral vaccine for polio given in some countries that includes a live, attenuated virus, can also be confused with the real thing in a wastewater sample.
“It’s not terribly easy,” she said.
Different countries use different methods, Tam said, and even within Canada there’s a lot of innovation happening.
“I think one of the roles of our lab is to then look at the best methods and try and bring some standardization and guidance to that testing,” she said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 12, 2022.
– With files from Adina Bresge in Toronto and The Associated Press
Remains of small armor-plated dinosaur found in Argentina – Mint Lounge
Charting the Global Economy: US Inflation Comes Off the Boil – BNN Bloomberg
Remembering Dori Klaaren and her art – Niagara Frontier Publications
A new Langya virus has infected 35 people in China. Here's what you need to know – Salon
Canada’s Auger-Aliassime falls to Ruud in National Bank Open quarterfinals – Sportsnet.ca
Researchers in South America Discover a New Species of Tiny but Tough Dinosaurs – ScienceAlert
Canadian wastewater surveillance expanding to new public health threats: Tam – CP24
Three Stars from Day 4 of WJC: Lysell, Sweden dominate all-European action – Sportsnet.ca