Thursday, May 19, 2022
IníciocoronavirusToday’s coronavirus news: Australia’s ban on cruise ships ends; Easter Sunday marks...

Today’s coronavirus news: Australia’s ban on cruise ships ends; Easter Sunday marks a return to in-person worship for many

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The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Sunday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

5:53 p.m.: According to official state numbers, Connecticut has recorded 3,939 positive COVID-19 tests in the past week, most in a seven-day period since early March.

In reality, experts say the true number is larger. Maybe much larger.

At previous stages of the pandemic, the vast majority of positive COVID-19 results came from tests administered by medical professionals and then reported to the Department of Public Health. But now Connecticut residents can purchase a test at a pharmacy and take it in their living room with no requirement that they report positive results anywhere or confirm their results with a medical provider.

That is good news when it comes to convenient testing access but bad news when it comes to tracking results.

“We have to be mindful of the data we are receiving and not receiving,” said Dr. David Banach, hospital epidemiologist at UConn Health. “Relying onas a primary way to gauge what’s circulating in the community is not as applicable right now.”

A sign outside of Charter Oak Health Center, which is administering vaccines and boosters daily. (Jessica Hill / Special to the Courant)

Official COVID-19 case counts have always underrepresented the true spread of the disease to some degree — as not everyone who gets infected develops symptoms or seeks a test — but experts say this has become especially true during the at-home testing era. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former FDA commissioner who has advised Gov. Ned Lamont during the pandemic, said recently he thinks the U.S. is “dramatically undercounting” COVID-19 cases, particularly in the Northeast.

3:55 p.m.: Quebec is reporting a 28-patient jump in COVID-19 hospitalizations Sunday.

The government’s open data portal shows there are 2,159 people in hospital with the disease.

There are 101 patients listed in intensive care, a drop of four patients from Saturday.

According to the open data portal, two more deaths were attributed to the novel coronavirus, for a total of 14,614 since the pandemic began.

The data shows there have been 1,040 new infections confirmed by PCR testing on Saturday, which is limited to higher-risk groups.

People aged 70 and over account for more than 71 per cent of the overall hospitalizations; further details on COVID-19-related hospitalizations and vaccinations will be released Tuesday.

12:20 p.m.: For many U.S. Christians, this weekend marks the first time since 2019 that they will gather in person on Easter Sunday, a welcome chance to celebrate one of the year’s holiest days side by side with fellow congregants.

The pandemic erupted in the country in March 2020, just ahead of Easter, forcing many churches to resort to online or televised worship. Many continued to hold virtual services last spring after a deadly winter wave of the coronavirus and as vaccination campaigns were still ramping up. But this year more churches are opening their doors for Easter services with few COVID-19 restrictions, in line with broader societal trends.

Among them are Catholic parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston, which since last June has once again required most churchgoers to attend Mass in person — though those with health risks may still watch remotely, and pastors have been asked to make space for social distancing in churches.

MC Sullivan, chief health care ethicist for the archdiocese, said celebrating Mass communally is important to how Catholics profess their faith. Church attendance has been trending upward, and parishioners are excited to gather again to commemorate Christ’s resurrection.

“It has been quite wonderful to see how well-attended Mass is right now. … It seems to have brought a lot of people back to the idea of what’s important to them,” she said.

While most pandemic restrictions have been lifted, some area parishes are holding Easter Sunday services outside, including a 6 a.m. sunrise Mass near the waterfront in South Boston.

Hundreds of people lit candles in the vast Cathedral of St. Paul, Minnesota, after Archbishop Bernard Hebda blessed the fire and lit the Paschal Candle to open the Easter Vigil service late Saturday.

The century-old cathedral echoed with the singing of the congregation as candles flickered in the darkness. Well past 8 p.m., wide-eyed children fascinated by the little flames and the cantors far outnumbered people wearing masks – the archdiocese rescinded all Covid protocols on April 1, while allowing the faithful and individual parishes to retain precautions if they wishes

10:14 a.m.: Australia’s two-year long ban on cruise ships expires on Sunday, another step toward the rehabilitation of tourism from the damage wrought by the pandemic.

The ban on foreign cruise ships — imposed in March 2020 after a COVID-19 outbreak aboard the Ruby Princess spilled into Sydney once the vessel docked — cost the Australian economy more than A$10 billion ($7.4 billion), the Cruise Lines International Association estimates.

Operators “are preparing for a carefully managed resumption of operations in a sector that previously supported more than 18,000 Australian jobs,” the association said in a statement ahead of the ban’s expiry.

Australia’s states will determine when vessels can enter now the federal ban has run out. Safety steps include vaccination requirements for crew and passengers over 12 years old, as well as mask and COVID-19-testing protocols.

P&O Cruises Australia’s Pacific Explorer will be among the first ships to dock in Sydney Harbour on Monday ahead of a return to service at the end of May.

Before COVID-19, 1.6 million cruise passengers visited Sydney in 2017 and 2018, according to official figures. The pandemic hit cruise ships particularly hard after high-profile outbreaks that led a variety of ports to block access.

Tourism industry bodies say there’s significant pent-up demand for cruises but it remains unclear if the fear of the disease will permanently affect the sector. Travel shares globally have yet to recover the ground lost due to the pandemic and have trailed global equities significantly since the start of 2020.

Australia has relaxed border restrictions this year, relying on high vaccination rates under a strategy of learning to live with the coronavirus.

8:20 a.m. COVID-19 patients can harbour the coronavirus in their feces for months after infection, researchers found, stoking concern that its persistence can aggravate the immune system and cause long COVID symptoms.

In the largest study tracking SARS-CoV-2 RNA in feces and COVID-19 symptoms, scientists at California’s Stanford University found that about half of infected patients shed traces of the virus in their waste in the week after infection and almost 4% patients still emit them seven months later. The researchers also linked coronavirus RNA in feces to gastric upsets, and concluded that SARS-CoV-2 likely directly infects the gastrointestinal tract, where it may hide out.

“It raises the question that ongoing infections in hidden parts of the body may be important for long COVID,” said Ami Bhatt, a senior author on the study published online last week in the journal Med, and an associate professor of medicine and genetics at Stanford. Lingering virus might directly invade cells and damage tissues or produce proteins that are provoking the immune system, she said in an interview.

No one knows yet what causes the constellation of post-COVID-19 symptoms, often termed long COVID, that afflict from 5% to 80% of people after a SARS-CoV-2 infection. It’s possible at least four different biological mechanisms lead to distinct conditions or subtypes of long COVID, said Akiko Iwasaki, a professor of immunobiology and molecular, cellular, and developmental biology at Yale University.

“Long COVID is likely multiple different diseases,” Iwasaki said last week in an interview in her lab in New Haven, Connecticut. In one of these forms, persistent SARS-CoV-2 may trigger a damaging immune response that leads to ailments that could be quelled with drugs that target the virus, she said.

8:20 a.m. COVID-19 patients can harbor the coronavirus in their feces for months after infection, researchers found, stoking concern that its persistence can aggravate the immune system and cause long COVID symptoms.

In the largest study tracking SARS-CoV-2 RNA in feces and COVID-19 symptoms, scientists at California’s Stanford University found that about half of infected patients shed traces of the virus in their waste in the week after infection and almost 4 per cent patients still emit them seven months later. The researchers also linked coronavirus RNA in feces to gastric upsets, and concluded that SARS-CoV-2 likely directly infects the gastrointestinal tract, where it may hide out.

“It raises the question that ongoing infections in hidden parts of the body may be important for long COVID,” said Ami Bhatt, a senior author on the study published online last week in the journal Med, and an associate professor of medicine and genetics at Stanford. Lingering virus might directly invade cells and damage tissues or produce proteins that are provoking the immune system, she said in an interview.

No one knows yet what causes the constellation of post-COVID-19 symptoms, often termed long COVID, that afflict from 5 per cent to 80 per cent of people after a SARS-CoV-2 infection. It’s possible at least four different biological mechanisms lead to distinct conditions or subtypes of long COVID, said Akiko Iwasaki, a professor of immunobiology and molecular, cellular, and developmental biology at Yale University.

“Long COVID is likely multiple different diseases,” Iwasaki said last week in an interview in her lab in New Haven, Connecticut. In one of these forms, persistent SARS-CoV-2 may trigger a damaging immune response that leads to ailments that could be quelled with drugs that target the virus, she said.

“I have heard anecdotally of people recovering from long COVID after antivirals or monoclonals,” said Iwasaki, who wants to collaborate on clinical studies of potential therapies. “I’m really excited at the possibility of testing direct antivirals and monoclonal antibodies” against long COVID, she said.

Pfizer Inc.’s Paxlovid received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration in December, introducing the first COVID-19 treatment taken in pill form. Pfizer doesn’t have any long COVID studies underway, but is assessing their possibility, the drugmaker said in an email.

8:19 a.m. Several businesses and residents have filed suit in state court in Pennsylvania seeking to overturn Philadelphia’s renewed indoor mask mandate scheduled to be enforced beginning Monday in an effort to halt a surge in COVID-19 infections.

The lawsuit, filed in Commonwealth Court on Saturday, said Philadelphia lacks the authority to impose such a mandate.

Philadelphia earlier this week became the first major U.S. city to reinstate its indoor mask mandate after reporting a sharp increase in coronavirus infections, with the city’s top health official saying she wanted to forestall a potential new wave driven by an omicron subvariant.

Attorney Thomas W. King III, who was among those involved in last year’s successful challenge to the statewide mask mandate in schools, said the city’s emergency order went against recommendations of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and “imposed a renegade standard unfound anywhere else in the world.”

The suit accuses city health officials of having “usurped the power and authority” of state lawmakers, the state department of health and the state advisory health board.

8:18 a.m. Australia’s two-year long ban on cruise ships expires on Sunday, another step toward the rehabilitation of tourism from the damage wrought by the pandemic.

The ban on foreign cruise ships — imposed in March 2020 after a COVID outbreak a board the Ruby Princess spilled into Sydney once the vessel docked — cost the Australian economy more than A$10 billion ($7.4 billion), the Cruise Lines International Association estimates.

Operators “are preparing for a carefully managed resumption of operations in a sector that previously supported more than 18,000 Australian jobs,” the association said in a statement ahead of the ban’s expiry.

Australia’s states will determine when vessels can enter now the federal ban has run out. Safety steps include vaccination requirements for crew and passengers over 12 years old, as well as mask and Covid-testing protocols.

P&O Cruises Australia’s Pacific Explorer will be among the first ships to dock in Sydney Harbour on Monday ahead of a return to service at the end of May.

Before COVID, 1.6 million cruise passengers visited Sydney in 2017 and 2018, according to official figures. The pandemic hit cruise ships particularly hard after high-profile outbreaks that led a variety of ports to block access.

Tourism industry bodies say there’s significant pent-up demand for cruises but it remains unclear if the fear of the disease will permanently affect the sector. Travel shares globally have yet to recover the ground lost due to the pandemic and have trailed global equities significantly since the start of 2020.

Australia has relaxed border restrictions this year, relying on high vaccination rates under a strategy of learning to live with the coronavirus.

8:15 a.m. The Shanghai government urged the city’s elderly residents to make sure they are fully vaccinated and to get booster shots once the city’s lockdown is lifted.

Only 62% of residents aged 60 or older had received two shots of COVID-related vaccines as of April 15, Wu Jinglei, director of the Shanghai Heath Commission, said at a briefing Sunday. Of these, 38% have had booster jabs, Wu said.

The risks from the Omicron variant of coronavirus for unvaccinated elderly people are high, based on the monitoring of domestic and overseas cases, with patients displaying severe, critical and in some cases fatal symptoms, Wu said.

Older people with diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure can get vaccinated as long as they are taking their routine medicines and their symptoms are stable, he said.

Shanghai has reported 16 COVID cases with severe symptoms in the latest outbreak, 15 of whom are aged 70 years or older and most of them are unvaccinated and have “serious” chronic diseases.

City officials recorded 24,820 local COVID-19 infections for Saturday, 21,582 of them asymptomatic. While the case count is still “fairly high,” the ratio of infections detected among potentially risky people has fallen, Wu said.

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