BCCOVID19.INFO – GRAND OPENING
It has now been 200 days since BC first took action to help stem the spread COVID-19, about 197 days since I decided to make regular posts detailing the experiences of living in a pandemic, about 145 days since I decided to make my posts more focused on sharing facts and scientific updates related to COVID-19, and about 35 days since I made the decision to create a dedicated website to better share COVID-19 related information with the people of BC. So without further delay, I welcome you to the official launch of BCCOVID19.info, a website dedicated to bringing you the latest facts and scientific research about COVID-19. New posts will go live Mon-Fri usually between 10pm and midnight, with occasional bonus posts on weekends.
To celebrate our grand opening, we are giving away one of the special limited edition Dr. Bonnie Henry themed Compass Cards. To enter the raffle just leave a comment on any of the weekly posts starting today until October 4th. Maximum of one entry per day, and no more than 5 entries per person. The winner will be randomly drawn and announced on Monday, October 5th’s daily post.
Weekly Chart Update
Today’s conference with Dr. Bonnie Henry included some very positive news. For the first time in September, we are seeing a drop in week-to-week total new case numbers. For the last 7 days, our average daily number of new cases was 100, whereas the previous week’s average daily number of new cases was 127.
If we take a look at the total week-to-week new case number growth rates, we see that for the first time since the resurgence began in early July, we are seeing a negative growth rate. A negative growth rate is essential for bringing our numbers down consistently and comes after several weeks of keeping the growth rate relatively flat since mid-August.
These numbers will likely come as a huge relief to many parents, as we are now a little over 1 incubation period since schools reopened, and many people had expressed strong concerns about in-school learning potentially leading to new case number spikes.
Rapid Antigen Tests Going Global
With the support of the W.H.O., the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and others, 120 million rapid antigen testing kits will be made available to low and middle-income countries, to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in impoverished nations. These kits will be supplied by SD Biosensor and Abbot, at a cost of no higher than $5 USD each. An additional 480 million kits will also be made available to other higher-income countries.
Antigen testing is not a new concept in the fight against COVID-19, but it is not one that most people in Canada would likely have run across yet. Antigen tests have a comparatively short window for detecting a positive infection, with the test ideally being performed within 1 or 2 days of symptom onset. If a person is asymptomatic it makes the likelihood of receiving a correct diagnosis much less likely. There has been a lot of pressure from Canadians to approve rapid antigen tests like the ones mentioned above, but so far Dr. Theresa Tam has not been satisfied with the accuracy of the test she has evaluated.
CERB Has Ended – Enhanced EI Begins
The Canadian Emergency Relief Benefit that initially was planned to run for 16 weeks, has now come to an end after 28 weeks of availability. Most of the people who have been receiving it, and need continued assistance, will be rolled over into a new enhanced EI program. Canadians receiving EI are eligible for a taxable benefit at a rate of at least $500 per week, or $300 per week for extended parental benefits. Canadians claiming EI benefits for job loss would be eligible for at least 26 weeks. Returning to the EI program will allow claimants to benefit from the Working While on Claim rules. These rules allow claimants to keep receiving part of their EI benefits and all their earnings from work. In addition, employers will once again be able to make use of registered Supplemental Unemployment Benefit plans to provide support to employees.
Those switching to EI from CERB effective Sunday, September 27 will be eligible for their first EI payment as of October 11. Over 80 percent of eligible Canadians are expected to receive their payment by October 14.
GSK Vaccine Candidate Threatens Sharks
A shark advocacy group recently raised a red flag over the vaccine candidate currently being developed by Sanofi & GSK. Their product is a protein subunit style vaccine, which similar to DNA and RNA style vaccines, frequently requires an adjuvant to generate a sufficient antibody response. The Novavax, BioNTech, and Moderna vaccine candidates may also require an adjuvant for peak effectiveness.
The issue stems from a key component required by many adjuvants: squalene oil. Squalene oil is a naturally occurring substance found in humans, sharks and other animals, however, sharks are the predominant source for commercial and medical use. GSK is historically known for using adjuvants made with squalene oil from sharks.
Based on the estimates provided by Shark Allies, the 72 million doses of GSK’s vaccine candidate that Canada has ordered, could come at the cost of between 4,000 and 5,000 shark’s lives. The good news is that there are alternatives to shark based squalene. Non-shark squalene can be created synthetically or extracted from vegetable sources like amaranth seed, olives, rice bran and wheat germ. With many shark species currently at population risk already, there is pressure on GSK to switch to one of the more renewable supply chains.
That’s all for now, stay safe everyone!