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Why contact tracing is 'a skill and an art' in the fight against COVID-19 – CTV News



Tracing the contacts and movements of someone exposed to COVID-19 is key to containing the disease. Dr. Johnmark Opondo, medical health officer in Saskatoon, spoke with CTV Saskatoon’s Jonathan Charlton about how contact tracing works – and how much it has increased during the pandemic. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

When COVID-19 hit, was there contact tracing capacity already or did you have to start from scratch?

This is really interesting. The pandemic is a public health emergency, it’s a new infectious disease. But contact tracing is something that we do all the time. It’s just maybe some of the best hidden secrets of the work we do as the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

Any communicable disease … we do contact investigations and that’s one big contribution to quickly controlling any infectious disease outbreak. The main thing is to get quickly to people who have been exposed, notify them and ask them to isolate themselves or get tested.

For COVID we’ve just used the same practice. We had smaller teams – but as the SHA we ramped up, we scaled up as the need has grown because COVID came in and we quickly needed a lot of capacity to do a lot of work in a short period of time.

How many people doing tracing do you have now compared to before?

In Saskatoon, at a stable state we probably have something between six to seven nurses doing contact tracing across our communicable disease front. We have approximately, on average, including our casuals, maybe a nice round number would be 10.

During COVID, at the peak, in March, April when we were seeing a lot of cases, I think we had something like 30 people helping us in contact tracing. The majority were public health nurses but we’ve had other disciplines of employees like our health inspectors and some of our exercise therapists. It became all of us contributing when this was critical.

Can you describe how the process works?

Contact tracing is a skill and an art and I think it’s really good to be able to describe this to your audience and the people of Saskatchewan. Usually the way we do contact tracing is when we have a new case, we do an initial interview and many times it’s on the phone. We have a set of interview questions and it’s very friendly – because we’re nurses. Nurses are really patient advocates so it’s very patient centred.

We want to know how you are, if you need any medical support that referral is made then. We really want to know two main things – are you isolated at home, that’s really important for public safety, and then if you can tell us your list of people you’ve had contact with in the last 14 days and maybe the places you’ve been.

In this day and age of social distancing, a good check is, you should know who you’ve encountered in the last 14 days. If it’s a longer list than you can recall, you need to check whether you’re truly social distancing, because you should be unless you’re in an essential service field. And if you are in an essential service field we want to know where you’ve been.

And really, the aim of contact investigations is gentle. It’s about protection so that we can quickly get to people who you may have been in contact with. When we do get to the people when we’ve collected information from you, we’re very careful that we don’t disclose or we don’t breach your confidentiality.

How many contact traces have been done so far for COVID-19?

In the Saskatoon area it’s in the thousands. Each case on average in Saskatoon we have called at least seven other people.

Has there been any thought to using contact tracing apps or technology like that?

We know about them, we know how they’ve been used in other settings and we’re kind of trying to view them and understand them in the Canadian context. But this is an area that’ll be very new and innovative and we really have to get public support and buy-in.

I understand there are apps that are really very good and they’re not intrusive and they don’t take a lot of your data – but for the apps to work, a high proportion of the public has to have those apps on their phone. Just doing contact tracing based on cell phone numbers is something that can be very sensitive and maybe I’ll just leave it at that.

But I think the apps we’ve heard about, there are some that look particularly interesting. We’ll see. For us in Saskatchewan the way we’re doing it with the outbreak, it’s been quite efficient. And I think it’s been quite effective. It’s worked for us quite well.

In general, how should people be feeling about the state of the pandemic in Saskatchewan and the risk it poses?

I think the Saskatcewan people have really done an excellent job in collaborating and cooperating at great inconvenience to themselves. They socially distance, people didn’t have their Easter, religious ceremonies the same way, we’ve cancelled a lot of mass gatherings and concerts. So we’ve made a huge sacrifice. And I think our numbers show that, that things have stabilized, things are going in the right direction. Generally speaking, things look good.

But you can’t be overly optimistic. Because you asked me that question and I have to touch wood. I don’t want to jinx our trend, but our trends are generally going in the right direction, even in the places where we are experiencing outbreaks.

Pandemics come in geographic waves so in Saskatchewan we’re not an island. We have to make sure that we’re helping our neighbours, both Manitoba and Alberta. We are in one big epidemic zone in the Prairies so if we can all help each other and move towards a stable situation at least for the Prairies … if things calm down, which is the trend I’m seeing, then I think we’ll be good. But it may only be for a while. This new virus is around so really we have to proceed with caution.

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Art Gallery of Alberta offers pre-booked visits as it reopens during COVID-19 pandemic –



Another Alberta attraction is opening its doors with extra precautions to protect guests from the spread of COVID-19.

Coronavirus: Royal Alberta Museum to reopen Saturday — with some changes

The Art Gallery of Alberta announced it would start welcoming members back on June 4 and all visitors the following week.

The gallery will be open Thursday to Saturday by “pre-booked tickets.” The hours of 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. will be exclusively for vulnerable and at-risk people and all visitors will be welcome 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

June 4 to 6 will be open only to AGA members for a preview and the wider opening will happen June 11.

Art Gallery of Alberta announces free admission for kids and students

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Several increased health and safety measures have been put in place, including:

  • Reduced capacity in all spaces to ensure physical distancing
  • Guiding physical distancing with decals on the floor, directional markers and signage
  • Staff in public spaces will be wearing masks and/or face shields
  • Plexiglass barriers will be installed at key guest service areas
  • Handwashing or hand sanitizer stations will be put on every floor and at the main entrance
  • Increased cleaning and disinfecting throughout the AGA
  • Closing high-touch and interactive areas
  • Removing all furniture
  • Not providing wheelchairs at this time
  • Zinc Restaurant remains closed at this time
  • Art rental and sales are available by appointment only and with curb-side pickup

“Safety is our top priority and we are closely monitoring the situation each day and if warranted, may decide to take additional measures or close to the public,” the AGA said in a statement on its website.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

Guests are asked to book their visit online in advance. Priority will be given to pre-booked visits with a small number of walk-ups allowed each hour.

Art Gallery of Alberta makes admission free for kids and students

Art Gallery of Alberta makes admission free for kids and students

Anyone with any COVID-19 symptoms — even minor — like fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, chills, shortness of breath/difficulty breathing, aches, feeling unwell — must not visit.

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Anyone who has been in contact with someone who had COVID-19 or had COVID-19 symptoms must not visit.

Anyone who has travelled outside Canada in the last 14 days or has been in contact with someone who has must not visit.

When visiting, guests are asked to wear a mask if they have one, stay two metres apart from other visitors, be patient while waiting their turn to see art and exhibits.

Guests are also asked to follow proper handwashing or hand sanitizing recommendations, avoid touching surfaces and following the direction indicators.

Coronavirus: Alberta phased relaunch strategy will see some restrictions eased Friday

The AGA has also said it will be offering Pay what you May admission for the month of June to all essential service workers and those in the arts and culture sector.

People who aren’t ready to visit in person can access #yourAGAfromhome online programming, with #AGAlive webinar events and hands-on art activities.

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

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Christo's place in art history is not without controversy – here's why – The Conversation UK



The history of art is written as if men of genius lead the rest of the world – us, the public – from an imagined position at the front of culture. Whenever another great man dies, his biography is fitted into the story of successive “great lives” and so the point is illustrated, furnished with examples of genius at the helm of progress. This is true of Christo.

Christo, who died aged 84 on May 31, is usually pictured as the quintessential genius. Most often he is pictured alone – the man with his monumental achievements. This has been the case throughout his career – as true of his most recent works as it was in the 1960s and 1970s: the solo man wrapping up nature and architecture (he also wrapped women in his earliest works).

But most of Christo’s oeuvre was created working with his wife, the artist Jeanne-Claude, who died in 2009, as well as teams of experts. In all the reporting of the highly ambitious, eye-catching and popular interventions into urban and rural landscapes, his artist-wife collaborator is subsumed under his name. It exemplifies the cliché: “Behind every great man there stands a woman.”

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Christo and his wife produced a range of artistic experiments including piles of oil drums and miles of umbrellas in sculptural interventions. But their most famous artworks are impossibly large wrappers of urban monuments and rural environments. They wrapped a piece of Australian coast near Sydney in 1968-69, some islands in Miami in 1980-83, the Pont Neuf in Paris in 1985 and the Reichstag in Berlin in 1995, among other things.

Until plastic became justifiably unfashionable for environmental reasons, these artistic interventions were generally understood as aesthetically pleasing, a benign way of drawing attention to the adjacent and enveloped forms, namely the shoreline, the trees, the ancient bridge. The machismo of such large-scale work was fairly unexceptional in the context of “land art” staples at the time, such as Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970).

Christo’s credentials as environmentalist lay in the fact that the work was temporary, and he and Jeanne-Claude went to lengths on their website to explain how the art is “clean”. In the 20th century, their work was interpreted as environmentally sound and ecologically engaged, but in the 21st century the continued use of vast quantities of mined and man-made resources was met with criticism.

Context is everything

I note this to exemplify just one of the changes in the art’s reception over time. Over Christo’s long career, there have been other changes in how the work has been received and framed. Artists always work in contexts – and contexts change over time. Context informs how an artwork is understood. Once, Christo and other land artists were appreciated for their embodied anti-consumerism, anti-capitalist art practices – land art must be funded but it cannot be sold.

Today, this once integral part of its raison d’etre and context is eclipsed by a contemporary art world that embraces the market and the neoliberal idea that the market provides all that society and individuals need. Christo’s anti-consumerism therefore is no longer part of his narrative. Changes in the accepted narrative are always worth pointing out.

A visitor looks at a drawing of US-artist Christo and his partner Jeanne-Claude, illustrating the work ‘The umbrellas’.
EPA/Markus Stuecklin

“The past is a foreign country” is a cliché, but the idea that “they do things differently there” is often overlooked by art historians bent on furnishing a history with genius. For historians – and consequently for most members of the public – a great artwork is great because it is the embodiment of genius. This appears to be common sense, but it is worth noting that the idea of genius was defined at the birth of art history in the 18th century in reference to classical antiquity. Genius was the product of a particular location: Europe, and – notably – a particular gender: male.

Subsequently this narrow definition of genius was projected across the world and the rest of humanity was found lacking. The relationship between genius and progress is intertwined. Without genius we have no progress.

Art in a changing world

Achievements in art and science are driven by a notion of progress. Culture progresses, according to the narrative, from the primitive and unformed, the uninformed, towards enlightenment which, as this idea of progress is an Enlightenment one, is rather neat. Prior to the Modern period, there was a different understanding of progress. Progress was seen as being towards heaven and the value of human intellectual and artistic endeavour was to the glory of God.

The purpose of culture and art, its role and value in society, has changed over time. Cultures, attitudes – and even the very definition of words such as “art” – change. Yet, somehow today and since the invention of art history and the concept of aesthetics, our reception of an artwork is supposed not to change. We assume a great artwork is a great artwork forever and in all contexts, that it is universal and transcendent of time and space.

The floating piers at Peschiera Maraglio in Italy, June 2016.
michelangeloop via Shutterstock

Christo’s death serves as an example of how a history of progress is written. The genius of the artist exemplifies a given notion of progress. Progress is built on bigger, better, more expensive sole-authored achievements, a notion of genius that suppresses the collaborative and the complex.

In death, the artist is polished and their achievement is made glossy by smoothing out changes over time in the reception of the art and in the reasons for making art in the first place.

An impression is formed by the traditional art historian that, always and universally, the artist’s contribution to cultural progress is fixed and unmistakable, a stable step forwards. In reality, it wasn’t like that. It never is.

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Incoming Nanaimo Art Gallery executive director excited for new role – Nanaimo News Bulletin



The Nanaimo Art Gallery’s new executive director says she’s looking forward to the challenge and opportunity to come to a new place, get to know people and make an impact.

On May 29 the Nanaimo Art Gallery announced that this summer Carolyn Holmes, who spent the past four and a half years as executive director of the Two Rivers Gallery in Prince George, will be taking the helm of the NAG.

Holmes said she’s been following the NAG for years and that it has a reputation for being innovative and community-minded.

“I know that there’s a great exhibition program there and also there’s lots of ties to the local community and to the indigenous community as well, which is all important to me,” she said. “I think not every art gallery should be the same. Each art gallery needs to respond to their community and work with the community and grow with the community.”

Holmes was born in England but raised in Whitby, Ont. As a youth she made art “all the time,” leading her to pursue a degree in fine arts at Queen’s University and a masters in museum studies at the University of Toronto.

“I always knew I was going to do something with art,” she said.

When she moved to P.G. 20 years ago to serve as the gallery’s inaugural education programmer the building was still under construction. Holmes said she got to develop the gallery’s programming from scratch and build a team around her vision. She said it’s “bittersweet” to be leaving the TRG after two decades, but “it’ll be nice to have some new ideas come into the organization.”

“A lot has happened in that time, along with me having two children and growing a family, so it’s been a big part of my life, the gallery, and Prince George as well, so it will be hard to leave,” she said.

Before becoming executive director, Holmes served as the director of public programs. She said one of her proudest accomplishments is establishing the gallery’s MakerLab, an education and workshop space meant to “connect the community with creativity and not just art.”

“Sometimes people think, ‘I’m never going to be a painter or a drawer,’ or, ‘These exhibitions aren’t for me,’ and so it was a way to have everybody embrace what they might be doing creatively…” she said. “We were trying to teach skills and share ideas and also get people who were making things in their houses, kitchen tables, in their wood shops and bringing them together to share ideas and building a community.”

Holmes said moving to Nanaimo will bring her closer to her parents who live in Qualicum Beach. And while she said her familiarity with the Harbour City is limited to that of a summer tourist, Holmes is excited for her and her husband and teenage sons to “find our place” in Nanaimo.

Holmes expects the first few months of her directorship will be spent familiarizing herself with the gallery and getting a sense of what the NAG staff and board are working on, their priorities and their plans for the future.

“I know eventually the board would like to grow the gallery and that’s exciting, I think, for everyone, but I think there’s a lot of listening and learning that needs to take place,” she said. “For me, engaging with the community is my priority. I want people to recognize that Nanaimo Art Gallery is their art gallery and feel a connection to that.”

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