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Will herd immunity save us? Your COVID-19 questions answered – CBC.ca

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We’re breaking down what you need to know about the pandemic by answering your questions. You can send us your questions via email at COVID@cbc.ca and we’ll answer as many as we can. We’ll publish a selection of answers every weekday on our website, and we’re also putting some of your questions to the experts on the air during The National and News Network.  

So far, we’ve received more than 20,000 emails from all corners of the country. Your questions have surprised us, stumped us and got us thinking.

Will herd immunity save us from COVID-19?

We are receiving a lot of questions about herd immunity, including an email from Suzanne K. who wants to know: How and when does herd immunity evolve? 

By definition, herd immunity evolves when a sufficient amount of the population becomes immune to a disease. When it comes to COVID-19, herd immunity means the virus would not be able to spread on its own, according to Erin Strumpf, a health economics expert at McGill University. 

“It’s not prevention of a disease, per se, but it’s prevention of an epidemic,” she says.

Most experts suggest herd immunity cannot be achieved safely without a vaccine, because seniors and other vulnerable populations with suppressed immune systems would be at risk, and hospitals would be overwhelmed. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson rolled back the U.K.’s herd immunity strategy on March 16, just four days after it was implemented. Johnson later tested positive for COVID-19 and was admitted into intensive care. He has since been released.

Watch Dr. Allison McGeer, an infectious diseases specialist, answer audience questions on The National:

An infectious disease specialist answers your questions about COVID-19, including whether herd immunity could eventually be as effective as a vaccine. 1:44

Dr. Allison McGreer, infectious diseases specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, says herd immunity without a vaccine is “theoretically possible” if everyone, or almost everyone, who becomes infected develops antibodies that will protect them for life. 

While that might happen, “we don’t know that [yet],” said Dr. McGreer. 

“It would just be foolish to count on it, which is why we’re working on vaccines.” 

You can read more about the debate around herd immunity and opening up schools in Quebec here.

How do I practice physical distancing during Ramadan?

Thanks to Aslam K. for this question. The month of Ramadan will look very different this year. This is the time when Muslims go without food or drink from sunrise to sunset every day, then gather to break their fast and pray together.

According to the Canada Council of Imams, mosques in Canada are taking their lead from health officials and their provincial governments, and will remain closed during Ramadan. 

Evening prayers during the month of Ramadan, which starts April 23, will be cancelled. Muslims will be asked to pray at home instead, said Abdul Hai Patel, the council’s director of inter-faith relations.

Not having the community aspect of Ramadan this year “is going to be challenging,” said Cindy Jadayel, a member of Ottawa’s Masjid ar-Rahmah or Mosque of Mercy.

“We have to work harder this year to have families happier in the home because we can’t go out and celebrate with others.”

“With the pandemic this year, it seems different,” said Riyaz Khawaja, president of the Hussaini Association of Calgary, the main Shia Islamic organization in the city.

“Congregation prayers and eating together, that part we’ll be missing, but it’s going to be better to observe ourselves and be more spiritual in these hard times,” he said.

Khawaja says people will still be live-streaming prayers and sermons, donating to food banks, checking on neighbours and making financial donations during Ramadan and looking to help wherever it’s needed.

He says Ramadan has always been about reflecting on those less fortunate.

Can you sterilize a cloth mask by ironing it?

We’re still receiving lots of questions about masks, including this one from Janet S., who is wondering whether ironing her homemade mask will be enough to sterilize it. 

The short answer is no. Ironing your cloth mask will not work.

McGeer says that you can destroy some of the virus by heating it up, but it’s not enough to effectively sterilize the mask. 

“Sterilizing requires a certain time, usually at least 10 minutes above a certain temperature like 65-70 degrees Centigrade, which you can’t get from ironing,” she says. 

Instead, Health Canada recommends laundering it on a hot cycle and drying thoroughly. 

“When you wash it, just the soap and water in the washing machine will remove the COVID-19,” says McGeer.

But what about other masks, such as disposable paper surgical masks, and coveted N95 masks, which are used in both health-care and construction settings?

Disposable masks are not designed to be reused, and N95 masks also have a limited shelf life. 

That said, PPE shortages are forcing some health care facilities to experiment with safely decontaminating and reusing disposable masks. For instance, some hospitals are using UV light and pressurized sterilization machines called autoclaves to clean masks, but these methods cannot be safely replicated at home. 

With the warmer weather arriving, will wearing open-toed shoes be an issue? 

As the weather warms up, people like Eydie are wondering whether open-toed shoes could be an issue in terms of transmitting COVID-19. 

Open-toed shoes are okay, according to Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease physician at the University of Alberta.

“Even if you had possibly an infectious virus on a shoe, in order to be infected you’d have to handle the shoe and then touch your face, nose or mouth or inhale the virus from the shoe,” she says.

We’ve also received a number of questions about whether the virus can persist on footwear or on the ground. 

Dr. Peter Lin, a CBC News medical contributor and family physician, says while there is a small risk of the virus ending up on shoes from surfaces at grocery stores or other shops, the risk of contracting COVID off your shoes is low.

“The virus needs to get to your lungs, so [it’s] very low risk that you will get the virus into your lungs [from your shoes]. When you get home don’t walk around your place with your outside shoes, just leave them on a mat by the door.  No need to scrub down. Over a few days the virus breaks down on its own,” he says. 

So while the risk transmitting COVID-19 from your shoes to you is low, you can minimize it altogether by keeping a shoe-free household for now. 

Read more on how to properly disinfect your home here.

Thursday we answered questions about pool protocol to blood donations. Read here.

Keep your questions coming by emailing us at COVID@cbc.ca.

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N.B. COVID-19 roundup: 15 new cases reported Monday, and another death – CBC.ca

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Public Health is reporting 15 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, and another death.

Eleven of the new cases are in the Saint John region (Zone 2), three are in the Moncton region (Zone 1) and one in the Fredericton region (Zone 3), Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health, said at a news conference.

All 15 of the cases have been “identified and are isolating,” Russell said.

Seven people in New Brunswick have now died of the disease since the pandemic started. Russell did not say where the latest death occurred.

She urged residents to “please, wear a mask” and keep their close contacts low.

“We must all remain vigilant, there has never been a time when the risk was zero,” she said.

Enforcement of rules, and frustration with non-compliance

Premier Blaine Higgs said Monday that police and peace offers were enforcing compliance with the single-household bubble, mask-wearing, physical distancing and other rules in the orange zones on the weekend.

Thirty tickets were issued, he said, and at least one business in southeastern New Brunswick has been shut down after not following guidelines “for some time.”

Higgs also singled out for criticism those who are deliberately ignoring the rules.

“It is disappointing to hear that some people have not been giving their real names and contact information” when at businesses, he said.

“You’re not ‘beating the system,’ ” he later added. “You’re jeopardizing the health and welfare of maybe your neighbour, maybe your grandparents, maybe your parents.”

Atlantic bubble bursts

The Atlantic bubble has come to an end for now.

Both Newfoundland and Labrador and P.E.I announced Monday that they were leaving the bubble for at least two weeks as COVID-19 cases rise in parts of the region.

New Brunswick isn’t following suit, although Premier Blaine Higgs is asking people to be cautious about travel outside the province.

Higgs said during Monday’s news conference that he spoke with the P,E.I and Newfoundland and Labrador premiers Sunday night and the decision to leave the bubble was a “shared decision.” He expects it will be “a two-week closure.”

New Brunswick tightened restrictions in Moncton and Saint John last week as cases rose, and the province reported its highest ever single-day case count on Saturday with 23 new cases. As of Sunday, the province had a total of 77 active cases. 

Employee tests positive at Stan Cassidy Centre

Horizon Health Network and New Brunswick Public Health are investigating a potential COVID-19 exposure at Horizon’s Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation in Fredericton.

As this is a high-risk situation, Horizon is declaring an outbreak at the Centre.

As of Monday morning, Horizon is restricting all visitors at the Centre and cancelling scheduled appointments until further notice after an employee tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday.

The employee is self-isolating, Horizon said in a statement.

Patients who were in contact with the employee when the employee may have been infectious had rapid testing for the respiratory virus Sunday.

 Horizon said all affected patients have been isolated. And all staff who were in contact have had COVID-19 testing. 

“As a precautionary measure, all other employees at the Centre will be tested for COVID-19.”

Effective Monday morning, all staff and physicians at the Centre will participate in active screening for COVID-19 symptoms.

Horizon Health said affected patients and families have also been notified.

Employee and 3 residents test positive for COVID-19 at Shannex

A Shannex official says the Parkland Saint John facility has activated its pandemic plan after one employee and three residents tested positive for COVID-19.

Clinical practice director and infection control specialist Lisa Snodgrass says all 371 residents and employees were tested.

And she’s been told those four were the only positive cases.

“We’re not sure how it got in,” she said. “But we are sure of what we can do to help prevent the spread and that’s what we’re focusing on right now.

Public health says the outbreak is at Tucker Hall.

Snodgrass says that’s a 90-bed licensed long-term care home on the Parkland Saint John campus.

Snodgrass said all residents are self-isolating as well as some employees – she declined to say how many.

Residents can normally move freely between the buildings, but under pandemic restrictions, she says most of the movement is limited to health care team members.

She says the investigation into cause of the outbreak is ongoing.

What to do if you have a symptom

People concerned they might have COVID-19 symptoms can take a self-assessment test online

Public Health says symptoms shown by people with COVID-19 have included:

  • A fever above 38 C.

  • A new cough or worsening chronic cough.

  • Sore throat.

  • Runny nose.

  • Headache.

  • New onset of fatigue, muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell.

  • Difficulty breathing.

In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes.

People with one of those symptoms should:

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Manitoba posts record 543 new cases of COVID-19 – CBC.ca

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Manitoba hit a new high for daily COVID-19 cases with 543 today — the first daily tally to top 500 — and seven more deaths, the daily bulletin says.

That puts Manitoba’s total cases so far above 14,000, meaning one in every 100 Manitobans has contracted the illness.

“It might be easier to just think of these as numbers, but these are Manitobans,” said Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin. “The list continues to grow and it’s very challenging to be reading every day.”

The majority of new cases — 368 of them — are in the Winnipeg Health region, which is a record. The previous high was 330 cases announced on Nov. 7.

The announcement comes about a week and a half after all of Manitoba went into code red, or critical, under the provincial pandemic response system.

Even more restrictions went into effect Friday, with gatherings no longer allowed inside homes, and no more sales of non-essential items in-store, following widespread closures of restaurants, bars and non-essential businesses.

4,700+ cases under code red

More than 4,700 new cases have emerged under code red, and Manitoba has struggled to alleviate the pressure facing hospitals. 

Roussin said one promising sign that those restrictions are working is the average number of contacts of people who test positive is beginning to trend down.

There were 118 new cases in the Southern Health region, just shy of the record for that area. There were 27 cases in the Northern Health Region, 21 in the Interlake-Eastern health region and 12 in the Prairie Mountain Health region.

The death toll rises to 236, with five of the new deaths in Winnipeg and two in the Southern Health region. The people who died were age 60 to 100. 

Nearly half of all reported deaths have emerged during code red, which came into effect Nov. 12.

The five-day provincial test positivity rate is 14 per cent in Manitoba, with a rate of 13.8 per cent in Winnipeg.

Record in hospital

A record 296 people are in hospital with the illness, with a record-tying 52 in intensive care.

Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer for Shared Health, said 96 of Manitoba’s 103 ICU beds are currently full, half of them with COVID-19 patients.

All but four days in the past month have seen record high numbers in hospital and the system is at or near capacity. Hospitals continue to add a few ICU beds every week, but Siragusa and Roussin have repeatedly stressed the demands facing the system can’t be sustained.

The surge has caused the province to postpone 901 non-urgent and elective surgeries in the past four weeks, she said.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 552 health-care workers and first responders have tested positive, Siragusa said.

Nearly 111,000 hours of sick time were logged in the past two weeks, up slightly from the two weeks earlier, and that equates to about 6,900 eight-hour shifts, Siragusa said. Much of the sick time is linked to workers in Winnipeg who are sick or isolating at home.

Roussin also addressed reports of religious gatherings taking place over the weekend in violation of current public health orders. He stopped short of confirming where in the province these gatherings reportedly occurred but said enforcement officers are investigating.

“These orders are here to save lives,” Roussin said. “We can’t have in-person gatherings. It puts Manitobans at risk.”

Calls for help at care home

There are hundreds of cases tied to care home outbreaks — nearly 30 such outbreaks have occurred so far — and rising case numbers across the province.

Some private care homes are facing staffing shortages due to workers testing positive and have resorted to asking family members of residents to come help feed and monitor their loved ones.

Siragusa said Monday that among those helping out at care homes are staff from the Victoria General Hospital, who recently began pitching in at St. Norbert Personal Care Home.

“I just want to thank everyone who has stepped up during this period of incredible need,” she said. “It’s a reminder that we all need to stick together in this time.”

About a quarter of all deaths are linked to two Winnipeg care homes. About 90 per cent of all deaths have been people over age 60, though two 30-year-olds and a 20-year-old died last week.

Since March,14,087 people in Manitoba have tested positive; over 70 per cent of all cases to date have emerged in the past month.

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Prairie Harm Reduction temporarily closing due to COVID-19 case – Global News

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Prairie Harm Reduction (PHR) is temporarily closing its doors due to a coronavirus case.

The closure, which also affects the safe consumption site, will last for two weeks.

The Saskatoon-based organization posted on its Facebook page Monday morning that a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

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PHR said the decision to close is the safest option.

The organization added that it allows for the quickest return to normalcy.

PHR’s safe consumption site, the first of its kind in Saskatchewan, opened its doors last month.

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1:39
Sask.’s 1st supervised consumption site opens as overdose deaths spike


Sask.’s 1st supervised consumption site opens as overdose deaths spike – Oct 1, 2020

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