- Canada’s chief medical officer has advised people to wear face masks while having sex.
- Dr. Theresa Tam said that solo sex was the least risky sexual option when it comes to protecting yourself from COVID-19.
- If you have sex, you should avoid face-to-face closeness, she said in a statement.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Canada’s chief medical adviser recommends wearing face masks while having sex.
Dr. Theresa Tam said on Wednesday that people should also avoid kissing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Solo sex, she said, was the least risky sexual option and best way to protect yourself from the virus.
“Sexual health is an important part of our overall health,” she said in a statement.
“However, sex can be complicated in the time of COVID-19, especially for those without an intimate partner in their household or whose sexual partner is at higher risk for COVID-19.
“Like other activities during COVID-19 that involve physical closeness, there are some things you can do to minimize the risk of getting infected and spreading the virus.
“The lowest-risk sexual activity during COVID-19 involves yourself alone.”
According to Tam, you’re very unlikely to catch COVID-19 from semen and vaginal fluid, but it’s the closeness that comes with sexual activity that could increase the risk if you are with new partners.
“Even if the people involved do not have symptoms, sexual activity with new partners does increase your risk of getting or passing COVID-19 through close contact, like kissing,” she said.
Precautions you should take before sexual relations, according to Tam, include checking for symptoms, limiting consumption of alcohol and other substances “so you and your partner(s) are able to make safe decisions,” wearing a mask that covers your mouth and nose, not kissing, and avoiding face-to-face closeness.
“The most important step is to establish a trusting relationship with your sexual partner,” she said.
A recent study from Harvard University has also found that having sex could spread the coronavirus and recommends that couples who aren’t quarantining together wear face masks during sex as a precaution.
In July, the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control issued safe-sex advice to Canadians that included using “glory holes,” which are small holes in walls or barriers to allow for oral or penetrative sex.
“Use barriers, like walls (e.g., glory holes), that allow for sexual contact but prevent close face-to-face contact,” the advice said.
Canada has recorded 129,425 cases of COVID-19 and 9,132 deaths, according to the government’s figures.
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Op/Ed: IH tackling COVID-19, then and now – The Nelson Daily
By Susan Brown, President and CEO, Interior Health
The past seven months reflect some of most turbulent times our country has seen, so if you are feeling anxious and confused, I understand.
The COVID-19 picture today is much clearer than it was when B.C. declared its first case on Jan. 28, 2020. That solid plan we all craved then has come into place and we are entering the next phase of the pandemic armed with increased knowledge and medical expertise about COVID-19.
It is nothing short of remarkable to look back to Feb. 14 when Interior Health recorded its first case of COVID-19. Our area of the province acted, we sacrificed, we kept our hospital admissions low, and our case counts down.
We have, tragically, had two deaths in the Interior Health region from COVID-19 and we know that no matter how low our numbers the impact is significant, especially for families who have lost loved ones. These losses are reason enough for all of us to continue to follow the safety precautions every day.
Our public health teams have dealt with a diverse range of COVID-19 cases and outbreaks since March.
We managed B.C.’s first outbreak of COVID-19 in a group of temporary foreign workers at an agricultural business. Later, illness at a South Okanagan farm was another example of excellent work as the spread was contained to the farm itself with only four people testing positive.
The same infection control measures and contact tracing went into high gear when outbreaks were declared at two long-term care sites. Swift action and teamwork resulted in only one person testing positive at each site and no residents becoming ill.
Similarly, outbreaks at the Okanagan Correctional Centre were kept to low numbers. In the second outbreak, declared over on Sept. 10, no inmates became ill.
Our contact tracers have worked tirelessly to reach anyone exposed to the almost 500 people in the Interior who have tested positive for COVID-19 since February. The efforts of our medical health officers, epidemiologists, environmental health, communicable disease and public health staff – all working together – are how we were able to bend the curve back in Kelowna after the July long weekend when a cluster of cases grew from a series of parties.
As CEO, I am proud of our teams, including the staff and physicians at COVID-19 testing sites, in hospitals, in the community, in long-term care, housekeeping, and assisted living facilities, in our labs, in our pharmacies and behind the scenes across all departments.
But – our success to date is not something health-care workers can do alone: we need you. In fact, we are counting on you to continue with the valiant efforts you have all shown to date.
None of the achievements listed above would have been possible without the outstanding commitment from the people who live in the Interior Health region. You stepped up. You washed your hands vigorously, you stayed close to home when you were asked not to travel, you are staying home now when feel ill, and you have maintained appropriate physical distance from others and have chosen to wear masks as an added precaution. These measures must continue in the months ahead.
Now, we’re re-starting our fall routines, including back-to-school.
We are watching this important and necessary step carefully. Our public health teams are ready to jump into action to support the school community and our children. Our medical health officers are working with school districts to answer questions from families and students and ease their fears.
While COVID-19 is new, dealing with communicable diseases such as meningitis and measles in schools is not. This is the role of public health and something we do very well.
We are also prepared at our testing facilities and have strengthened our IH lab capacity. More people have been trained and we’re ready to ramp up testing if required.
In some communities test results took longer than I wanted to see, so over the summer we focused our efforts on training more lab staff and stocking supplies to streamline testing. Today when you look at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control data page, Interior Health test results are typically a day or less.
As we head into the fall, we are urging everyone to keep their bubbles small. The precautions that help protect our long term care homes can be applied to schools. Together, fewer contacts and smaller bubbles will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and its introduction to schools.
Our public health teams are equipped to follow up on COVID-19 cases, our primary care and hospital staff and physicians have the latest information on how to treat the illness, but none of us can stop the transmission of the disease alone. We need you.
I appeal to you to not be complacent and to continue to follow the safety precautions that we know works in stopping communicable diseases, including COVID-19. Stay home when you’re sick, maintain physical distancing, wash your hands frequently and keep your bubbles small.
We can do this together. Let’s renew and refocus our efforts to control this virus, to protect ourselves and loved ones from COVID-19.
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Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers by late July – Powell River Peak
VANCOUVER — Health care workers in Canada made up about 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections as of late July, a figure that was higher than the global average.
In a report released earlier this month, the Canadian Institute for Health Information said 19.4 per cent of those who tested positive for the virus as of July 23 were health-care workers. Twelve health care workers, nine from Ontario and three from Quebec, died from COVID-19, it said.
The World Health Organization said in July that health-care workers made up 10 per cent of global COVID-19 infections.
A national federation of nurses’ unions blames the infection rate on a slow response to the pandemic, a shortage of labour and a lack of personal protective equipment.
Mahi Etminan, a registered oncology nurse who was working at a hospital in Vancouver in mid-March, says she doesn’t know how she was infected by COVID-19.
“It could have been anywhere in the hospital,” she said.
“In March, we weren’t required to really wear any masks or anything.”
Etminan said she has tested negative for the virus twice but still feels the after-effects of her illness. She tires easily, has lost her sense of taste — even salt — and is losing chunks of her hair.
She agrees with the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions that proper precautions weren’t put in place to deal with COVID-19.
“I think we were behind in putting a proper protocol in place,” Etminan said.
Linda Silas, president of the 200,000-member nurses’ federation, said Canadian hospitals approached COVID-19 based on the findings of a 2003 Ontario government commission into SARS.
“I thought we were ready,” Silas said in an interview.
“And then mid-March, early March, we realized how unready we were. And that’s one of the reasons that we have one of the highest levels of health-care workers getting infected.”
She said with the routes of transmission for the virus being uncertain — and later research showing it was possible the virus could be airborne — it was critical that health care workers get full protection.
The Ontario government convened the commission to investigate the origin, spread and response to SARS. One of the key recommendations of the report was improving the safety of health-care workers.
Ontario Health Ministry spokesman David Jensen said lessons learned from SARS have been implemented, including giving more powers to the chief medical officer of health to issue directives to workers and organizations.
The province recommends health-care workers use appropriate precautions when conducting clinical assessments, testing and caring for patients who are suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, he said.
The approach to the novel coronavirus was taken on a precautionary basis because little information was available about its transmission and clinical severity, Jensen said in an email response to questions.
“The majority of cases are linked to person-to-person transmission through close direct contact with someone who has COVID-19. There is no evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted through the airborne route.”
The World Health Organization acknowledged in July the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions.
It said those most at risk from airborne spread are doctors and nurses who perform specialized procedures, such as inserting a breathing tube or putting patients on a ventilator.
Michael Brauer, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s school of population and public health, said COVID-19 doesn’t fit the traditional airborne model where viruses remain infectious over long distances and time periods.
“There’s been a little bit of an evolution in our understanding of the transmission,” he said, adding there was evidence as early as March that showed the virus can be transmitted via air.
While early on more attention was paid to surface transmission, it now seems as though the airborne route is more prominent, he said.
Health Canada spokeswoman Tammy Jarbeau said long-term care facilities and retirement homes were among the hardest hit during the peak of COVID-19 in the spring, likely affecting health-care workers.
The federal government is working with the Canadian Institute for Health Information to better understand the virus, including expanding case data for health-care workers.
The Quebec government said the high rate of community contamination in the province coupled with a labour shortage at the beginning of the pandemic affected health-care workers who were working in several long-term care homes to maintain essential services.
“In recent months, Quebec has gone through an unprecedented health crisis,” said Robert Maranda, a spokesman for the ministry of health and social services.
The plan to deal with COVID-19 was based mainly on the experience gleaned from the 2009 swine flu pandemic, he said.
“However, H1N1 influenza is not the same virus that we are currently fighting against,” Maranda said.
“A person with COVID-19 can transmit the virus without having any symptoms, which is not the case with the flu.”
But as more is known about the new coronavirus, he said the province’s response has changed, including no longer allowing health-care workers to work in different places.
Silas said the nurses’ federation has started an investigation led by a former senior adviser to the SARS commission into why Canada didn’t better protect health-care workers from COVID-19. The report is expected later this year.
The Public Health Agency has done a poor job of gathering data about health-care workers infected with COVID-19, she said, adding that the federation has relied on data collected by Statistics Canada.
“There’s this lack of information flowing,” Silas said.
Natalie Mohamed, a spokeswoman for the Public Health Agency, said 25 per cent of all reported cases were among people who describe themselves as working in health care and it has been collecting data from the provinces and territories since March.
Those who identify themselves as health-care workers include physicians, nurses, dentists, physiotherapists, residential home workers, cleaners, janitorial staff and volunteers.
Some health-care workers may also be getting infected outside work, Mohamed said, although exposure data is incomplete.
The associate executive director of the Canadian Medical Protective Association, which provides advice and assistance in medical-legal matters to doctors, said it began fielding concerns from members about a lack of protective equipment when the virus started spreading.
Dr. Todd Watkins said the questions have shifted to how things will be handled in the future.
“Will there be a second wave and how am I going to respond to that? Is my clinic prepared for that? Will there be appropriate protective gear?”
Christine Nielsen, chief executive officer of the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science, said the flow of information is affected by the fact the provinces and territories deliver health care and they could collect data differently.
“There’s room for improvement with how public health has responded,” she said. “Just the scale of the pandemic has really caught everyone off guard.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Sept. 19, 2020.
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