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WHO Official Explains Why Coronavirus Hasn’t Been Called a Pandemic

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Dr. Michael Ryan, a top World Health Organization (WHO) official, revealed why the organization is not classifying the COVID-19 outbreak as a global pandemic.

“I think we need to be extremely cautious in using the term ‘pandemic.’ We had lots of controversies during the H1N1 situation, around when it was pandemic and when it wasn’t pandemic, and I think we need to be careful,” he said, referring to the swine flu virus.

A pandemic, Ryan suggested, would have to entail “efficient community transmission outside of China,” where COVID-19, or the Novel Coronavirus, is believed to have originated. He is the executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program.

“At the present time, we’re not observing that. And as such, we’re not in a position to have that discussion. What we’re seeing is, again, as we’ve said previously, the majority of cases outside China have a direct link still back to China,” Ryan said in a news conference on Monday.

It’s important for his organization not to create “fear in the world” by labeling the outbreak as a pandemic, according to the official.

“We’ve said that the risk is very high in China, it’s high regionally and it’s high around the world. That is not, ‘the risk is high of a pandemic.’ The risk is high that the disease may spread further, and I think at face value, that is true,” Ryan remarked.

A day earlier, Dr. Michael Fauci of the U.S. National Institutes of Health said the outbreak of COVID-19 is on the brink of becoming a pandemic.

“It certainly is on the verge of that happening reasonably soon unless containment is more successful than it is right now,” Fauci told CBS News, adding that two dozen countries outside of mainland China have approximately 500 cases of the virus.

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A worker uses a thermometer to check the temperature of a customer as she enters a Starbucks shop as the country is hit by an outbreak of the new coronavirus, in Beijing, China, on Jan. 30, 2020. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

“Several of them,” he added, “are starting to get to the second and third transmission.” A pandemic officially means that there are several countries with sustained transmission from “person to person to person,” Fauci explained.

The World Health Organization several weeks ago declared the virus a health emergency of international concern.

The United States on Sunday had a total of 15 cases of the virus from California, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Texas, Illinois, Arizona, and Washington State. However, that number rose on Monday after Americans who were evacuated from a cruise ship held in quarantine arrived in the United States.

Health officials said that 13 evacuees who were removed from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, currently docked off the coast of Japan, were taken to a hospital in Nebraska. Some of them showed signs of COVID-19 while others tested positive, officials said in a press conference on Monday.

The bulk of the cases are in mainland China, centered around Hubei Province and Wuhan, it’s capitol. Chinese regime officials have implemented lockdowns in dozens of cities, affecting hundreds of millions of people while triggering global supply-chain slowdowns. Last week, top White House advisor Larry Kudlow, said he was “disappointed” with how China has handled the outbreak. “The virus is contained in the United States. We don’t know if it’s contained in China,” he said.

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COVID-19 cases jump by 40 in Manitoba – Brandon Sun

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Manitoba announced 40 new cases of COVID-19 in the province on Thursday, the largest single-day increase so far during the pandemic.

Thursday’s numbers bring the total number of cases up to 167, including 11 in the Prairie Mountain Health region, said the province’s chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin. The total number of deaths remains at one, and five people are in intensive care.

The news follows the announcement on Wednesday that community transmission had started in the province. Roussin said there are five cases that Manitoba Health can’t trace back to travel or contact with another infected person. At this point, community transmission is only happening in Winnipeg, but he said everyone in the province should be taking the same social distancing measures.

“We want to ensure that people are aware that once we see this virus in the community at low levels, it’s possible to acquire that virus should you not practise social distancing,” he said.

“Stay home if you can, it limits your risk to acquiring this virus, it limits the risk to others of spreading this virus, so stay home as much as you can. That will be your biggest contribution to decreasing the spread of this virus.”

Now is not the time for any travel, even to cottages, Roussin said. While people may believe it allows them to more effectively isolate, it will put increased strain on rural health-care systems if they do get sick.

Several outbreaks of the virus have been identified in Manitoba health-care facilities, including at a personal care home in Gimli and the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg. Approximately 40 nurses at the Health Sciences Centre are self-isolating after possible exposure to the virus, while one worker at Betel Home in Gimli tested positive, he said.

In response, Lanette Siragusa, Shared Health’s chief nursing officer, announced health-care workers in hospitals, testing centres and other places will begin wearing surgical masks, gloves and gowns during all contact with patients. She said Manitoba Health has enough personal protective equipment to sustain the measure and more will be distributed according to need.

Shared Health is working on implementing the change at sites across the province and she said more information would be shared with people Thursday. 

“We have plans for this eventuality and the escalation of cases in recent days at health-care facilities means it is time for us to implement this change,” she said.

Hospital patients and personal care home residents who had close contact with people who tested positive for COVID-19 are also being tested, she said.

“These cases cause us all a great deal of concern, and we cannot emphasize enough the responsibility that all Manitobans have to do what we can to slow the spread of this virus,” she said.

In response to a question about opening hospitals dedicated to the virus, Siragusa said Manitoba Health is planning COVID-19 wards in hospitals across the province. It isn’t feasible to have all cases in one building, but hospitals — including the Brandon Regional Health Centre — could focus staff in one area to treat all patients with the virus.

“The concept is we can’t have it all in one site, but we can have them all united in one unit so the staff are concentrated there,” she said.

According to a spokesperson for Prairie Mountain Health, 342 people had been tested so far at the Brandon testing site as of the end of the day on April 1. At the Dauphin testing site, 23 people had been tested as of April 1.

Both testing sites are by referral only and are not walk-in clinics.

As of Thursday, the Cadham Provincial Laboratory had performed 11,327 tests in total.

» dmay@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @DrewMay_

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Ontario needs 900 new ICU beds to cope with coming surge in COVID-19 patients, models suggest – CBC.ca

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Ontario will have to add nearly 900 new intensive-care beds to its existing supply to be able to handle the surge in COVID-19 patients forecast under the best-case scenario in provincial models of the pandemic.

The province has an estimated 415 ICU beds available now, as the Ford government attempts to create the hundreds of new spaces experts expect they’ll need.

The additional beds would result in an approximate total of 1,300 dedicated ICU beds for COVID-19 patients.

The models released by the province on Friday suggest an increase in demand that could, in the best-case scenario, peak on April 18, but remain below Ontario’s total capacity if all 900 new beds are made available by then.

In the worst-case scenario, demand for ICU beds would rise sharply until at least the end of April, exceeding the province’s capacity as early as April 14, even with all 900 new spaces. 

However, that scenario will likely never come to pass, as signs indicate that the number of COVID-19 patients isn’t actually increasing as quickly as researchers thought it would. 

As seen in this graph released Friday as part of COVID-19 modelling projections, provincial health experts predict that there will be 80,000 cases by the end of April if the province sticks to its current intervention measures. (Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care)

Health officials say a continued commitment to physical distancing will help Ontario avoid the untenable strain on hospitals suggested by the worst-case numbers.

“If we can keep the prevalence of the disease to a lower level, the capacity that we have online, or that we could bring online, would indeed be sufficient,” said Matthew Anderson, president and CEO of Ontario Health.

The latest models also suggest that between 3,000 and 15,000 people will die of COVID-19 in Ontario during the pandemic. The model also forecasts 80,000 total cases by the end of April.

Few ICU beds remain at several GTA hospitals

Data obtained by CBC News shows a rapidly dwindling number of ICU beds in the Greater Toronto Area.

Just nine critical-care beds remain available among the 153 ICU beds in the hospitals of the Central Local Health Integration Network. Reports also show just 18 ICU beds available among the 130 critical care beds among the hospitals in the Mississauga Halton Local Health Integration Network

The Ontario government has given permission to all hospitals in the province to expand their capacity for COVID-19 patients, though it is not yet clear if they will have the staff necessary to accommodate that growth.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province is recruiting retired nurses, medical students and other volunteers to help staff overstretched hospital departments. 

Elliott said other hospitals may begin renting hotels, motels or retirement homes to increase capacity. Others, she said, are using field hospitals to prepare for the influx of patients. 

Christine Elliott says the province set up a website where people can volunteer to help staff overstretched hospital departments. 1:44

“That is something that is calibrated on an hour-by-hour basis, depending on where the outbreaks are happening,” Elliott said on Friday.

“We are ready to go, depending on where the hotspots are with COVID-19 and what each individual hospital needs, but they all have an individual plan in place right now to expand their capacity.”

There’s a ‘war being fought,’ emergency doctor warns

But some frontline workers say there’s not much more room to expand past their current capacity. 

Dr. Brett Belchetz, a Toronto emergency room physician, said although their hospital isn’t yet overrun, they’re not far from their limit. 

“If volumes are going to go up tremendously … we certainly will very quickly be in a situation where we will not have the equipment or the space or the supplies to care for those people,” Belchetz said in an interview with CBC Toronto.  

Although he said fewer COVID-19 patients are arriving at his emergency room, most of the people who are coming in are quite sick. 

Dr. Brett Belchetz says it’s been a ‘crazy few weeks’ in his hospital’s emergency room. (CBC)

And what people need to understand, Betchez said, is that “there is a war being fought out there.” 

If the province’s COVID-19 restrictions are unsuccessful, he said there won’t be enough ventilators to help all patients who are critically ill.

“The only way that we can stop that from happening is to prolong the outbreak to make sure we don’t have all those cases at the same time,” Beltchetz said.

“We cannot let our guard down.”

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Google Mobility Reports a slippery slope: cyber security expert – Global News

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In an effort to assist governments with ensuring residents are remaining in their homes during the COVID-19 outbreak Google has provided Mobility Reports which depict growing and shrinking trends in a number of activities.

In both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick the sections outlining retail and recreation, grocery and pharmacy, transit use and attending the workplace all declined significantly.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia surpasses 200 COVID-19 cases

However, two other sections actually saw increases: residential, which refers to time spent at home, climbed by eight percent in New Brunswick and five in Nova Scotia. But the other – parks – rose dramatically by 101 per cent and 95, respectively.

For Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil, the last section continues to be a source of frustration while a state of emergency continues in the province.

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“At a glance, Nova Scotia is not doing well when it comes to staying away from our parks and beaches,” he said Friday before the conclusion of the day’s COVID-19 update with Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health.

“We don’t need online graphs to tell us what we need to do. We need to stay the blazes home.”

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This type of data tracking isn’t new, nor is the idea of government’s using it to keep tabs on their citizens.






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Coronavirus outbreak: ‘Critical time’ as Nova Scotia sees signs of community spread, officials say


Coronavirus outbreak: ‘Critical time’ as Nova Scotia sees signs of community spread, officials say

But it’s what’s done in the coming weeks and months surrounding the use of this technology that some cyber security experts say requires strong surveillance.

“History shows us governments, when they take on emergency powers during a crisis, don’t generally give those powers back,” explained David Shipley, CEO of Beauceron Security, a Fredericton firm that specializes in helping businesses become and remain secure online. “Any attempts to use this data has to have some careful consideration given to the sunset clauses.”

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“We need to know that after this emergency is over clearly they’re going to stop using that data and they’re going to delete the data they have gained,” he said.

Within the current climate, residents have been asked to remain at home as much as possible to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

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Tracking devices during this state of emergency can certainly help give local governments and law enforcement a better idea of how well that is or isn’t being observed.

READ MORE: Surge in Canadian mobile and data use leads to complaints about service

But Shipley warns that the data gained from tracking mobile users isn’t foolproof and could lead to problems if used to target or surveil individuals, rather than amass information.

“The data can be flawed,” Shipley said.

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“The data accuracy of location data depends on the quality of the measurement,” he explained. “If you’re a person living in an urban area in Atlantic Canada like Halifax and you’re close to your wifi and other data points, the more data points the more accurate it is.”

“But if you’re living in rural Atlantic Canada and you only have the cell phone signal for example, maybe not the GPS data, it can be as inaccurate as a couple of miles.”

The possibility of the data coming through inaccurately Shipley says should influence how it’s used, likening it to political polls rather than a scientific study.






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Driver dies of COVID-19 weeks after complaining of passenger’s cough


Driver dies of COVID-19 weeks after complaining of passenger’s cough

He says while it can be used as a guide, citing how a mobility report uptick in trips to parks could then be followed up on, it’s critical that the way people’s personal data is monitored closely and their right to privacy isn’t taken away unknowingly.

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“Using good data to make public policy decisions at an aggregate, anonymous level, again with respect to individual privacy and ultimately freedom, there’s potential,” he explained. “But tracking down individuals and treating us all like we’re under house arrest is a future I don’t think we signed up for.”

Although right now there’s no indication individual surveillance is being considered, it’s not that far-fetched according to Shipley who says it’s already ongoing elsewhere in the world.

“We actually saw examples in Asia, South Korea and Taiwan, where folks who took their devices off of them actually got visits from police because now they couldn’t be tracked,” Shipley explained. “If people start knocking on your doors to make sure you’re respecting quarantine because you haven’t had your device on you, well that’s effectively house arrest.”

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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.

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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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