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Virtual fairs the new norm for 2020 as students showcase heritage and science projects –



Science, technology and heritage fairs move online for 2020. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Goodbye, gym. So long, cafeteria. Another time, cluster of poster boards. 

Students across Newfoundland and Labrador have been moving online with their projects to what is becoming the new normal for science or heritage fairs, as the COVID-19 pandemic has not only closed schools but made it impossible for students and judges to gather together. 

On Wednesday, the Eastern Newfoundland Science and Technology Fair saw 20 entrants take part, down from its usual 100 entrants in a physical fair setting. 

But that didn’t hurt the quality of the work, as judges doled out six gold, seven silver and six bronze medals with some honourable mentions in addition.

John Scott Pearce, a Grade 12 student at Holy Heart High School in St. John’s won gold and was chosen Best of Fair for highest overall score. Emily Meade, a Grade 12 student from Holy Heart High School in St. John’s, placed second, and also won a gold medal. Third place, and a gold medal, went to Linnaea Bird, a Grade 10 student from Holy Trinity High in Torbay.

In addition to the medal certificates, monetary prizes were provided by the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association Math Science Special Interest Council. These included $500, $300 and $200 for first-, second- and third-place winners, respectively.

Things will look a little bit different on the national scale this year as well. Youth Science Canada is hosting an Online STEM Fair for any student in the country in grades 7 through 12. Registration closes on May 18.

N.L. history

For students still interested in learning about Newfoundland and Labrador’s vast history, while K-12 schools remain closed under public health orders, the Young Citizens program, coordinated by the government of Canada’s Department of Canadian Heritage, is a go.

Students can submit a heritage fair video project to Young Citizens by June 8 for a chance to win a trip to a gala in Ottawa. A winner will be picked from each province and territory.  

Science fairs will look a little bit different in 2020, moving online to allow students to continue to compete. (Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press)

Carleigh Robinson of Eastport is an ambassador for Newfoundland and Labrador on Canada’s Youth History Council.

Robinson, 15, told CBC Radio’s On The Go the panel of judges are looking for video projects from across the country about Canadian heroes, legends, key events and special things about a community, among others. 

“They want you to go to museums and stuff, but unfortunately with the current situation you can’t do that. So, they can be [done] at home, you can read books, websites, anything you want,” she said. 

Robinson competed in 2017, with a report on the history of logging in Gambo. Her father, an employee of Parks Canada at Terra Nova National Park, brought her to the park’s archives where Robinson uncovered details about the logging industry in the area. 

Newfoundland and Labrador has a long history in logging, showcased in this image from the Land & Sea archives in 1967. (CBC)

She also visited a sawmill in Gambo and took a tour.

“It was really cool. It was a fun experience,” Robinson said. “[I] and another girl from Newfoundland did it. Unfortunately I didn’t win but she did and I think she had an amazing experience in Ottawa.”

Robinson said she didn’t know much about the logging industry or its history in Newfoundland and Labrador until embarking on her project for the competition. 

She said her project helped her understand how and why the province got involved in logging. 

“It gave me a little bit of information about things I really didn’t know, and it taught me a lot of cool skills and a lot of cool stories,” Robinson said. 

All information for submissions can be found on the Canada’s History for Kids website, where each video will also be uploaded for public viewing and voting ahead of the panel’s vote.  

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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Promising results from VIDO-InterVac's COVID-19 vaccine pre-clinical trials – News Talk 650 CKOM



The results from the COVID-19 vaccine trials at the University of Saskatchewan’s VIDO-InterVac research lab using ferrets, has hit a new and positive milestone.

According to the centre’s director, Dr. Volker Gerdts, teams were able to demonstrate that the ferrets were protected from the disease and specifically showed significantly reduced viral infection in the respiratory tract.

“That is of particular importance,” explained Gerdts. “It not only speaks to the severity of the disease, but also the ability of the animals to infect others.”

Ferrets were chosen for the study because of their similarity to human respiratory systems.

Several weeks ago, two doses of vaccine were given to the animals. Time was needed to then assess their immune response against a control group.

So how effective exactly is the vaccine so far?

“In the vaccinated animals – the ones that responded to the vaccine – we saw almost undetectable amounts of virus afterwards,” says Gerdts. “So, that’s very good news, and in comparison to the control group per swap… this is a range in a 50,000 fold reduction of it.”

All of the ferrets that were infected received what Gerdts says is a ‘high’ dose, or one million particles of the disease. Depending on exposure levels, it’s not even in the range of what a human would be exposed to, even with a high ‘virus shedder.’

Data on the lungs of the ferrets is still being analysed, but initial results indicate a very high immune response as well as high levels of neutralizing antibodies. It does not appear as though any other organs were affected by the virus either.

At this point, Gerdts says they are now in the midst of producing clinical grade vaccine doses that can be used in humans. He calls it the most time consuming part of the vaccine development.

In the meantime, they’re also conducting safety studies – which are required by regulators to essentially move on to human trials.

“In these safety studies, we’ll address whether there’s any unwanted effects or any adverse events to the vaccine. And also with this particular disease there is concern about what is called ‘disease enhancement’ where the vaccine would actually enhance the disease. So, there’s particular studies that will help us to rule out that our vaccine will do that.”

Gerdts admits that there is some concern that certain vaccines being developed currently may actually make the disease worse. It happened when a vaccine was developed for the virus that causes Dengue Fever several years ago.

“The technology that we have chosen is one that has a very well proven track record in humans and animals… and the advantage of that, is that it’s easily ‘scalable.’ So, at the end, we can produce millions of doses in a single run in a manufacturing facility. So while maybe it’s a bit slower at the moment, the advantage of our vaccine will be that it’s easier to scale and more cost effective.”

If all goes well, human trials are scheduled to begin in the fall.

“This is a vaccine made by Canadians for Canadians. So, we will make sure that our vaccine is available to Canadians at the highest priority.”

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WHO stops hydroxychloroquine trials over safety concerns – Bangkok Post



The coronavirus pandemic has hammered Latin America, with Brazil the latest epicentre of the disease.

GENEVA: The WHO suspended trials of the drug that Donald Trump has promoted as a coronavirus defence, fuelling concerns about the US president’s handling of the pandemic that has killed nearly 100,000 Americans.

Trump has led the push for hydroxychloroquine as a potential shield or treatment for the virus, which has infected nearly 5.5 million people and killed 345,000 around the world, saying he took a course of the drug as a preventative measure.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has also heavily promoted hydroxychloroquine while the virus has exploded across nation, which this week became the second most infected in the world after the United States.

But the World Health Organization said Monday it was halting testing of the drug for Covid-19 after studies questioned its safety, including one published Friday that found it actually increased the risk of death.

The WHO “has implemented a temporary pause… while the safety data is reviewed”, its chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, referring to the hydroxychloroquine arm of a global trial of various possible treatments.

Trump announced last week he was taking the drug, explaining he had decided to take after receiving letters from a doctor and other people advocating it.

“I think it’s good. I’ve heard a lot of good stories,” Trump told reporters then, as he declared it safe.

Trump dismissed the opinions then of his own government’s experts who had warned of the serious risks associated with hydroxychloroquine, with the Food and Drug Administration highlighting reported poisonings and heart problems.

Trump has been heavily criticised for his handling of the virus, after initially downplaying the threat and then repeatedly rejecting scientific analysis.

The United States has by far the world’s highest coronavirus death toll, reaching 98,218 on Monday, with more than 1.6 million confirmed infections.

Despite the WHO suspension, Brazil’s health ministry said Monday it would keep recommending hydroxychloroquine for Covid-19.

“We’re remaining calm and there will be no change,” health ministry official Mayra Pinheiro told a news conference.

Bolsonaro is a staunch opponent of lockdown measures and like Trump has played down the threat of the virus, even as Latin America has emerged as the new global virus hotspot.

Brazil has reported nearly 375,000 cases, widely considered to be far fewer than the real number because of a lack of testing, and more than 23,000 deaths.

Chile also is in the grip of a virus surge, with a record of nearly 5,000 infections in 24 hours on Monday.

– ‘Thrilled to break the isolation’ –

While South America and parts of Africa and Asia are only just beginning to feel the full force of the pandemic, many European nations are easing lockdowns as their outbreaks are brought under control.

In hard-hit Spain, Madrid and Barcelona on Monday emerged from one of the world’s strictest lockdowns, with parks and cafe terraces open for the first time in more than two months.

Elsewhere, gyms and swimming pools reopened in Germany, Iceland, Italy and Spain.

And slowing infection rates in Greece allowed restaurants to resume business a week ahead of schedule — but only for outdoor service.

“I’m thrilled to break the isolation of recent months and reconnect with friends,” said pensioner Giorgos Karavatsanis.

“The cafe in Greece has a social dimension, it’s where the heart of the district beats.”

Despite the encouraging numbers, experts have warned that the virus could hit back with a devastating second wave if governments and citizens are careless, especially in the absence of a vaccine.

The latest reminder of the threat came from Sweden, where the Covid-19 death toll crossed 4,000 — a much higher figure than its neighbours.

The Scandinavian nation has gained international attention — and criticism — for not enforcing stay-at-home measures like other European countries.

– ‘What will happen if I die’ –

The extended lockdowns, however, have started to bite globally, with businesses and citizens wearying of confinement and suffering immense economic pain.

Unprecedented emergency stimulus measures have been introduced, as governments try to provide relief to their economies, with the airline and hospitality sectors hit particularly hard because of travel bans.

Lufthansa became the latest major global company to be rescued, as the German government agreed a 9 billion euros ($9.8 billion) bailout for one of the world’s biggest airlines.

But analysts have warned that the pandemic’s economic toll will be even more painful for countries far poorer than Western nations.

In the Maldives, a dream destination for well-heeled honeymooners, tens of thousands of impoverished foreign labourers have been left stranded, jobless and ostracised as the tiny nation shut all resorts to stop the virus.

“We need money to survive. We need our work,” said Zakir Hossain, who managed to send about 80 percent of his $180 a month wage to his wife and four children in Bangladesh before the outbreak.

“I heard that if a Bangladeshi worker dies here, they don’t send his body back and he is buried here,” he said. “I am worried what will happen if I die.”

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WHO stops hydroxychloroquine trial in COVID-19 patients due to safety concerns – CANOE



GENEVA — The World Health Organization has suspended testing the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19 patients due to safety concerns, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday.

Hydroxycholoroquine has been touted by Donald Trump and others as a possible treatment for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The U.S. President has said he was taking the drug to help prevent infection.

“The executive group has implemented a temporary pause of the hydroxychloroquine arm within the Solidarity trial while the safety data is reviewed by the data safety monitoring board,” Tedros told an online briefing.

He said the other arms of the trial – a major international initiative to hold clinical tests of potential treatments for the virus – were continuing.

The WHO has previously recommended against using hydroxychloroquine to treat or prevent coronavirus infections, except as part of clinical trials.

Dr. Mike Ryan, head of the WHO emergencies program, said the decision to suspend trials of hydroxychloroquine had been taken out of “an abundance of caution.”

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