Tag Archives: contacts

Quarantine extended up to 24 days for contacts of COVID-19 variant cases, top doc says

Alberta has changed self-isolation rules for those infected with variants of COVID-19, and in some cases people may end up in quarantine for up to 24 days, says the province’s top public health doctor.

The province has now found 50 cases of the virus variant first identified in the United Kingdom, and seven of the variant first identified in South Africa, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said Tuesday at a news conference.

“With 57 cases of variants detected, I know that some may be wondering why we have detected so many,” Hinshaw said. “This is thanks to both the excellent work of our lab to expand variant testing quickly, and to the border pilot program, which has detected 28 of our variant cases.”

Because it can be difficult for people with variants to remain effectively isolated from other household members, health officials are ensuring all new variant cases, and people linked to those cases, are aware of Alberta’s hotel isolation and quarantine options, Hinshaw said. 

“If cases choose to stay home during their isolation period, their household contacts will now need to stay at home as well in quarantine, until 14 days have passed from the end of the case’s isolation period, for a total of 24 days,” she said.

“Given how easily this variant is spreading in homes, this enhancement is necessary to prevent spread in the community.”

All seven cases with the variant first identified in South Africa, and 36 cases of the variant first identified in the U.K., were found in returning travellers, Hinshaw said. Another six cases have been detected in the travellers’ close contacts.

But eight of the 57 cases, found in five different households, have no links to travel yet identified, Hinshaw said.

Investigations are underway to determine the source of those cases, Hinshaw said, though four of them have been linked to an outbreak at a daycare.

Hinshaw wouldn’t say where the daycare is because public health officials are still doing notifications. Not all of the four daycare cases have been tested, so it’s not known how many are linked to variants 

“This link was just identified today, and work is underway to notify parents and staff of this facility that the outbreak at this location may be at least partially caused by a variant strain. This is concerning but it does mean that we have a better chance of controlling spread when we understand the linkages between cases.”

Meanwhile, public health investigations in the cases of returning travellers identified some spread of the virus within those households, Hinshaw said.

In two schools in the Calgary zone, that household spread led to the children of returning travellers attending school while they were infectious. Three classes from those two schools are now self-isolating as a result, she said.

The variants are concerning because of the ease of transmission. Hinshaw has said Alberta health officials are working to track the origin of each case.

The government has announced that some public health restrictions affecting restaurants and gyms are planned to be lifted on Monday. 

Alberta reported 268 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 13 more deaths.

The last time new cases were that low was in mid-October.

The regional breakdown of active cases on Tuesday was:

  • Calgary zone: 2,805
  • Edmonton zone: 2,280
  • North zone: 852
  • Central zone: 655
  • South zone: 300
  • Unknown: 20 

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CBC | Health News

Casual social contacts can help combat loneliness and improve well-being during pandemic, psychologists say

Jennie Aitken, 33, began noticing it weeks into the pandemic.

The Victoria woman has a family and was frequently checking in with good friends, but since her management job with a local health authority required her to work from home, she could go days without seeing other people.

“I realized how lonely I felt,” said Aitken.

With the second wave of the pandemic pushing more people into the isolation of their own homes, a second public health crisis with potentially deadly consequences has emerged: loneliness.  

Even though we need to be physically distant from others, it’s good to make an effort to be socially close to people, psychologists say. (Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images)

Not just an uncomfortable emotion, loneliness is a leading risk factor for death. Social isolation exceeds the health risks associated with obesity, inactivity, excessive drinking, air pollution and smoking over 15 cigarettes a day, according to a 2010 review of 148 studies by psychology professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad of Brigham Young University in Utah.

That’s bad news in a worsening pandemic where increasingly tighter restrictions are forcing many of us to be apart from family and friends.  

Yet there’s a surprising antidote that can tide us through the holiday season and beyond: informal, casual interactions with acquaintances and strangers, such as neighbours, baristas, delivery drivers, dog walkers and others we may encounter in the course of an average day.

Called “weak ties,” these interactions can be just as effective in restoring our sense of well-being and belonging as connecting with our stronger ties to family and close friends.

“It just takes a handful of interactions – like going to the grocery store – and suddenly, I felt OK again,” Aitken said of her own experience.  

Even superficial interactions can improve well-being

When the pandemic hit, Jolanda Jetton, a professor at the University of Queensland, about 915 kilometres north of Sydney, and a few of her social psychology colleagues wrote the book Together Apart, in which they argued that the very social connections being discouraged are actually key to maintaining health during COVID-19.  

We can physically distance without socially distancing, Jetton and her co-authors said. 

While we must adhere to public health guidelines, we also need social contact beyond our immediate families, says Susan Pinker, psychologist and author of the book The Village Effect

When comparing social isolation against other health risks, Pinker said, it’s not just close relationships but social integration – how much you interact with people as you move through the day – that can be  predictors of how long you will live.  

Despite having to be in individual bubbles, it’s still possible to find ways to connect with others. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)

“We really have to be creative in finding ways to see each other,” she said.

As we’ve cancelled big family dinners and nights out with our friends, one way to boost our well-being is to interact with the people standing right in front of you.  

Gillian Sandstrom, a professor at the University of Essex, about 110 kilometres northeast of London, found that while the number of interactions with strong ties (such as family and friends) improved people’s sense of well-being and belonging, “the same was true of the weak tie interactions” – relationships involving less-frequent contact, low emotional intensity and limited intimacy (such as greeting a neighbour on the street).

Sandstrom, who completed her PhD at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, studied the issue on the campus. 

Part of her study looked at a group of 58 undergraduate students and an older group of 52 community members and counted the number of weak and strong tie interactions they had as they went through their days. 

Participants reported greater subjective well-being and sense of belonging on days when they had more weak-tie interactions.  

Psychologists say that speaking to people you encounter throughout the day can help stave off loneliness. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)

In another part of her study, she measured how many interactions 242 undergraduate students had with classmates. Those who had the most interactions, regardless of whether they had any friends in the class, reported greater subjective feelings of happiness and belonging.

“Weak ties are so important, and yet, it feels like we underestimate them,” she said.

“We have so many more of them than we have strong ties, and they’re so much easier to build. And they can do a good job in filling in gaps.”

Effect of small interactions adds up

Such interactions can help people compensate for some of the deeper connections they’ve lost in the pandemic, Sandstorm said.

Victoria’s Aitken agreed.

“These interactions feel so superfluous that you don’t really seek them out in the same way,” Aitken said. “So for me, I’ve had to make a real point of scheduling in casual interactions, like going to CrossFit, where I largely just stand around and talk to people behind a mask four metres away. It’s honestly been a major thing to keep me well.”

Even chatting with a stranger at a coffee shop leads to a greater sense of belonging and happiness, another of Sandstorm’s studies suggested.  

WATCH | The challenge of solo living during the pandemic:

As public health officials urge residents to limit in-person social interaction to their own households, adherence is especially daunting for people who live alone. 1:52

Sandstrom instructed one-half of the 60 participants to smile, make eye contact and have a brief conversation with the barista at Starbucks and the other to be as efficient as possible. Those who made an effort to talk to the barista experienced more positive emotion and felt more of a sense of belonging after leaving.

This echoes the work of Elizabeth Dunn, a psychology professor at UBC in Vancouver, whose study of 78 people found that participants reported feeling greater well-being than expected when interacting with a stranger, equivalent to the mood boost they experienced when interacting with their romantic partner.   

However, Sandstrom said, we often don’t take advantage of these potential boosts in mood when we cross paths with each other.  

“I think people are so focused on efficiency that they’re losing out on these moments of connection and maybe not even realizing they are doing it,” Sandstrom said.  

Even casual connections with people can help foster a sense of belonging and community, psychologists say. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)

“Each individual conversation with a stranger or weak tie isn’t necessarily anything special, but they add up to something which is even more important — a sense of trust and community.”

Sandstorm’s latest, yet-to-be-published study suggests that talking to strangers not only alleviates loneliness, but also increases feelings of trust and benevolence toward others. 

During the pandemic, she paired 64 strangers with each other and had them connect virtually for a conversation. Not only did people feel less lonely and isolated; she also found their general sense of trust in others and perceptions of others’ benevolence were higher after having a conversation with a stranger.

“Now, I go out of my way to talk to strangers,” said Sandstrom. “Even though I’m still an introvert.”

Community ties help — even at a distance

As jurisdictions around the world move to tighten restrictions in response to rising numbers of COVID-19 cases, these weak ties that we previously took for granted are threatened. Physical distancing has pushed most of us away from in-person interactions in favour of communicating by email or text, using self-checkouts, or doing our shopping online.

University of Queensland’s Jetton said it’s important to be aware of interactions.

“We have all these devices that measure our steps…. Maybe we need to start measuring the social connections that people have and help them make plans on how to expand their social network,” Jetton said.

Speaking to strangers, even in a lineup, can help boost your spirits. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)

While it might be hard to have casual social interactions in person, Jetton’s research suggests that merely belonging to a group can be one way to reap some of the benefits of weak social ties. Her studies suggest that belonging to a group, regardless of the strength of individual ties within the group or physical proximity, improves well-being.

We can still feel like a community member, even when the connection is impeded by something like a lockdown. Coming together for virtual church services, or art classes, or to sing, or cheer and bang pots and pans from apartment balconies are all ways we’ve adapted to stay connected, even when our immediate friends and family are physically distanced.

So while the provinces are tightening restrictions, limiting our chances for holiday gatherings, connecting with weak ties — from chatting with strangers on the street to singing as a group on Skype — can help substitute for some of the deeper connections that are physically out of reach right now.

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CBC | World News

Canadians urged to dramatically limit contacts as COVID-19 cases rise, holidays begin

Public health officials are urging Canadians to dramatically limit their contacts with other people as the country continues on a “rapid growth trajectory” for COVID-19 cases and the holiday season begins.

This week’s approval of a COVID-19 vaccine has led to a groundswell of public optimism — but public health officials are warning the pandemic is a long way from over. Releasing new modelling from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) today, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said that if Canadians maintain their current contact levels, more than 12,000 new cases will be recorded daily by January.

If people increase their level of contacts, however, that number could surge to more than 30,000 cases daily by January, according to the modelling sheets.

PHAC modelling suggests combined efforts are “urgently needed” to bend the curve as outbreaks continue in long-term care facilities and First Nation communities, putting a strain on hospitals and regional health care systems.

Tam told a media briefing in Ottawa that only one per cent of Canadians have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, which means most Canadians remain vulnerable to infection.

3 weeks, 100K new cases

About 100,000 new cases have been reported across the country in just the last three weeks, with growth being driven primarily by the six provinces west of the Atlantic region. In recent weeks, each of these provinces has recorded its highest daily case count, and several also have seen their highest daily number of deaths to date.

“We have yet to see the kind of sustained decline in daily case counts that would indicate we are bringing the pandemic under control,” Tam said.

WATCH / Dr. Tam on impact of COVID-19 on health system

Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Tam, updates reporters with the rising number of COVID 19 cases in regions across the country and reveals modeling projections. 0:50

Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Canada is entering a tricky season, when people traditionally take a break from work to spend time with family. Despite the positive news on the vaccine front, she urged Canadians to be vigilant in practising public health guidelines because a “very clear danger” remains.

“We’re going to have to be very, very cautious over the next several weeks to protect those people who are counting on us to work together,” she said.

Hajdu urges collaboration

Asked if the government should impose more restrictive measures to stem the disastrous rise in cases, Hajdu said the best approach is for the federal government to collaborate with the provinces.

“Yes, it is a tragedy, I completely agree with you, that cases are rising,” she said. “They are rising globally. There are very few countries that are not seeing growth right now. But I will tell you this — I believe it’s that effort of partnership, that we-will-do-whatever-it-takes attitude, that will get our country through this.”

Short-term projections suggest there could be up to 577,000 cases and 14,920 deaths by Dec. 25.

As of Friday morning, Canadian public health officials were reporting a total of 443,922 cases and 13,154 deaths.

Today’s projections are particularly grim for First Nations, where the number of active cases has doubled in the last month. The current number of active cases is more than 20 times higher than the peak number during the first wave of the pandemic for First Nations on reserve.

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CBC | Health News

Quebecers need to further reduce contacts to slow spread of COVID-19, projections suggest

Quebecers will need to be more diligent about physical distancing and further reduce their contacts to avoid a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, according to the latest projections by government-affiliated experts. 

The projections suggest that even with the closure of bars and restaurants, the cancellation of organized sports and further restrictions in schools put in place at the beginning of October, those numbers will continue to rise into the New Year.

But if the population reduces its contacts by another 25 per cent, according to one model, by maintaining two metres of physical distance in public spaces, wearing masks and limiting gatherings, the spread of the virus is likely to plateau and even decline. 

The findings were presented Friday by Quebec’s public health research institute, the INSPQ.

The presentation included three mathematical models: one if no measures had been introduced after cases started to climb in the middle of August and September; another if the restrictions imposed in early October are maintained; and a third that showed the impact of reducing contacts. 

Dr. Jocelyne Sauvé, vice-president of scientific affairs at the INSPQ, said the modelling suggests Quebec was headed for a “fairly catastrophic” rise in cases in September had nothing been done, with a death toll that could have exceeded the first wave.

But she said the projections show that further effort from the population will be necessary to stabilize the pandemic.

Marc Brisson, a health economics professor at Université Laval who presented the findings, said in practical terms this means further cutting back on non-essential contacts and keeping two metres apart while, for example, speaking to another parent during school drop off.

All three models were prepared with the assumption that Quebec’s long-term care homes and private seniors’ residences are better protected than they were in the spring.

Brisson said the INSPQ is preparing another round of projections to be released later this fall that would include the impact of more effective testing and contact tracing on the rate of transmission.

The previous round of INSPQ projections was released in July and forecast that a second wave would hit Quebec sometime in September. Its force would depend on how well Quebecers were following health guidelines.

Health Minister Christian Dubé said Friday the projections reinforce what the province has been saying — that the actions of individuals have major consequences.

Dubé also pointed to another study, prepared by Quebec’s health research institute INESSS, that suggested Quebec’s hospitals were under less strain than they had been a week ago.

“We have been doing well on stabilization, but we want those cases to continue to decline. Why do we do this? We want to protect our health system and have as few victims as possible,” he said.

“We would have hit a wall if we didn’t do what we did Oct. 1.”

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CBC | Health News

ICU chief contacts cosmetic surgeons, carpenters in search of supplies for COVID-19 battle

Dr. Michael Warner is preparing for battle.

He’s head of the intensive care unit at the Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto, and he knows that any day he’s about to be overwhelmed with critically ill patients infected with COVID-19.

“It’s ominous. There’s an air of foreboding,” he said.

“This is coming. There are already ICUs in the Greater Toronto Area with patients with COVID-19.”

It’s also a battle he knows he can’t fight without the necessary equipment.

“This is like D-Day. I’m on the boats and I don’t know where the guns are,” he said. “You don’t know what the enemy looks like, and you don’t know how long the battle will last.

“And you don’t know if you have enough artillery and armour to protect you for the full battle.”

Dr. Michael Warner, head of the intensive care unit at the Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto, has been trying to round up as many supplies as possible for his hospital. (Michael Garron Hospital )

One of the most critical pieces of armour is a simple disposable mask with a stamp that reads: N95. He knows there won’t be enough of them.

Having that mask could be the difference between life and death for a patient, because doctors and nurses need to protect themselves from viral contamination before they can insert a breathing tube.

“I don’t want to be in the position where I’m saying, ‘Sorry, I can’t help your father, mother, child because I don’t have the personal protective equipment,'” he said.

“That’s a personal nightmare for me.”

‘People want to do something’

Who else uses these special disposable masks? Carpenters. Construction workers.

So Warner started contacting people he knows in those industries asking for help. He said if they have any N95s, let him know, because he needs them for the hospital.

He didn’t stop there.

He also knows there won’t be enough ventilators — mechanical breathing machines that can keep critically ill COVID-19 patients alive long enough for their lungs to recover.

Who else has ventilators? Cosmetic surgeons.

Soon, Warner had prominent plastic surgeons organizing their network to start rounding up ventilators.

Veterinarians who treat large animals also use ventilators in their emergency rooms. So Warner sent some more emails.

Would animal ventilators work on humans?

“I don’t know enough about animal ventilators to know, but I think at this point everything is on the table,” Warner said.

Everyone got back to him immediately, pledging to do what they can to help.

“People want to do something, if there is something they can do,” he said. “They just want to be told, and they’ll do it.”

Lesley MacNeil, an assistant professor of biochemistry at McMaster University in Hamilton, gathered up supplies for the local hospital. (Lesley MacNeil)

Warner said it was the best use of his remaining time before the surge of sick patients begins.

“I can’t wait for a shipment of N95 masks that might never come from the government.”

Running out of time

Federal and provincial governments have announced measures over the past few days to increase the supply of hospital equipment, including masks. An interim order passed by the federal health minister on Wednesday will make it easier to import COVID-19 test kits.

But already the strains on supplies are starting to appear. Some regions are running low on nasal swabs used to test patients for COVID-19. And Canada is competing to buy masks with the U.S. and countries all over the world that are grappling with the global shortage.

Some Toronto hospitals could run out of some supplies within two weeks — and that’s based on usage rates over the last month, not counting an increase in consumption rates expected as COVID-19 patients begin flooding hospitals.

That’s why Warner is asking business leaders, manufacturers and innovators to come with rapid private sector solutions.

“We are going to need these supplies very soon,” he said.

Warner said he knows governments are scrambling to increase supplies, but he’s not sure they understand how critical a simple mask can be.

“I think they recognize that [personal protective equipment] is important. I don’t know if they understand how quickly we could burn through it, and the catastrophic nature of that problem,” he said.

“We can have all the ventilators in the world, but they will sit idle if you can’t intubate a patient to put on that machine.”

Michael Hendricks of McGill University is contributing supplies from his lab to help health-care providers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. (Sarah Moser)

While Warner was reaching out to construction workers and veterinarians, Michael Hendricks was rummaging around the supply cupboards in his McGill University lab searching for N95 masks, boxes of latex gloves, and chemicals he uses to study the nervous systems of nematode worms.

Hendricks and researchers across Canada have received urgent emails from both provincial and federal health agencies asking them to donate testing chemicals, called reagents, and other laboratory supplies for COVID-19 testing.

With the supplies on back order, provinces are forced to ration their COVID-19 tests. But many research labs that study biological science would have the necessary reagents.

“These are reagents that are involved in isolating RNA from samples,” Hendricks said. “And reagents are used for the amplification tests to see if the virus is there.”

Hendricks piled up whatever he had for pickup.

“We had some N95 masks and about 100 regular surgical procedure masks. We have a ton of gloves — pick a size. We had recently ordered a bunch of boxes of gloves. We had thousands. We sent some of the RNA isolation kit materials as well.”

Research labs across the country are being scoured for supplies that are desperately needed in hospitals. (Michael Hendricks)

Hendricks was happy to be contributing to the fight against COVID-19. He said the university research labs are quiet. All of the students have been told to go home. All of the research has been put on hold.

The Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services is organizing the collection at McGill, while at McMaster University, supplies are being collected for the local Hamilton Health Sciences hospital.

Lesley MacNeil, an assistant professor of biochemistry at McMaster, was among the researchers gathering supplies. Even though she doesn’t study viruses specifically, she was still able to contribute some personal protective equipment including gloves, face shields and eye goggles.

“Right now, the labs are shutting down. So we just gave them everything we had,” she said.

At Humber River Hospital in Toronto, Dr. Michael Gardam said preparing for COVID-19 is taking up all of his time as chief of staff and infectious diseases consultant.

When he heard of Warner’s scramble to find masks and ventilators, Gardam agreed the situation calls for such desperate measures.

“If the models are true, then yes, we need everything we can get.”

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CBC | Health News

High-Tech Vision Care: Is It Time to Upgrade Your Glasses or Contacts?

It’s an unfortunate fact that a large percentage of people have some sort of trouble with their vision. Even if you don’t at the moment, every human eventually has enough trouble focusing both near and far that they’ll need glasses for one or the other as they age. Our pupils become more limited also, with young eyes able to expand and close from about 2mm to 8mm, while in seniors they hardly change size at all. Exposure to the wrong kinds of light can also lead to eye issues later in life.

Fortunately, there are a variety of high-tech solutions either available or planned that can help us delay, or workaround, or even prevent some of these problems. For many of us, the only time we think about getting new glasses or a different kind of contact lenses is when our prescription changes. But that old pair of glasses you’re wearing doesn’t include the latest high-tech advances, which might turn out to be important to you. Similarly, there is increasing competition in contact lenses as well.  We’ll cover some of the most important advances below.

Make Sure Your Sunglasses Are Up to Snuff in UV Protection

While welders and other man-made sources of UV often get warnings, the Sun is the largest sourceThere is no question that UV radiation can be bad for you. However, it is only recently that scientists have realized that we hadn’t been going far enough with UV protection. Historically “UV380” was considered adequate for sunglasses. That certified that UV light below 380 nm was filtered out. But, while the light radiation from 380 nm to 400 nm may not contain as much energy, it is also the only UV light that makes it all the way to the retina. As a result, it can be a contributing factor in macular degeneration. Unfortunately, the time to start blocking UV is when you’re young, long before you typically think about or experience macular degeneration. But in any case, better late than never.

For sunglasses, the right feature to look for is UV400, which equates to blocking at least 99 percent of UV light up to 400 nm. Fortunately, most sunglass makers have gotten with the program, and a quick search on Amazon showed that most top sellers are UV400. However, there are still plenty of “UV380” models for sale that don’t adequately block the longer wavelengths. Price is also no guarantee of whether you are getting UV protection. I tested a dozen pairs of sunglasses around our house and found that four of them — including cheap and expensive models — offered little protection, while eight — including the least expensive — offered good protection. Of those, six offered what according to my test was full protection. The four without any protection at 400 nm went into the trash.

How to Test Your Glasses for UV Protection

You can test your own glasses for UV protection with a $  20 bill and a UV light.Most opticians can test your glasses for UV protection, although you can do a reasonable version for yourself quickly and cheaply. You’ll need a UV LED of the appropriate wavelength(s). I used a 395-400 nm LED flashlight to test for whether protection extended to 400 nm and a 365 nm LED keychain light to see if the glasses had any UV protection at all. There are plenty of inexpensive options on Amazon for both.

Next, pull out a new-style $ 20 bill and flip it over to the reverse side. As you shine your UV LED across it, you’ll see a bright green stripe appear. Now all you need to do is try that trick with the light going through your glasses. If they filter out the wavelength of your LED, you won’t see the green stripe on the bill. You can see how it works in the photo on the right. Notice that the green stripe is not visible where the UV light passed through the sunglasses. I was pleasantly surprised that these $ 15 glasses I bought at the racetrack when I forgot mine actually have good protection.

The caveat here is the precision of the wavelength of your chosen LED. From tinkering with a few, most seem to be pretty close to what they claim. But if you’re concerned, then I’d either make sure you have one that is certified to supply the wavelength you want or visit a local optician.

High-tech Brings UV400 to Prescription Glasses

For those of us who spend a lot of time outdoors wearing prescription glasses, UV protection for them may be even more important than for our sunglasses. Unfortunately, until recently it wasn’t possible to add a true UV400 coating to clear lenses without adding a possibly annoying color tint. Zeiss has invented a clear coating that filters out UV light up to 400 nm. The company is so excited about the health benefits of the invention that it has done two unusual things. First, it is now adding the coating to all of its plastic lenses going forward. Second, Zeiss has said it’s not patenting its UVProtect technology, so that other lens makers can follow suit.

Blue Blocking: Do You Need It?

While it’s nearly universally agreed that blocking UV up to 400 nm is a health benefit, there is also a movement to block light beyond the UV, into the visible blue portion of the spectrum. Various coatings have been introduced to filter out blue light below 450 nm while passing higher wavelengths. The theory is that for those of us who spend a lot of time in front of computer displays — which often emit a large quantity of blue light below 450 nm — our eyes would be healthier, and we’d be able to sleep better if it was filtered out.

Until recently, the problem has been that those coatings have made lenses look odd, or affected visual performance. That has begun to change. I’ve got Zeiss’s BlueProtect on my new glasses, and I don’t think you’d notice unless you knew what to look for. They do have a slight blue tint, so an ophthalmologist I consulted for this article knew I had the coating right away.

Speaking of which, he, and others in the field, are somewhat skeptical about the actual value of blocking off blue light. The quality coatings aren’t cheap, either. So I’d call this one more of a toss-up. Especially since the latest and greatest monitors and phones give you an opportunity to reduce blue light, I don’t think I’d get new glasses just to get blue blocking unless I really spent many hours every day staring at older screens.

Free-Form Progressive Lenses Claim to Be “HD” for Your Eyes

Advances in computer-aided design and manufacturing have made it possible — although expensive — to customize the optics in progressive lenses. They can be made with wider or narrower distance or reading vision areas, for example. Both near and distance can’t both be super-wide, for example, since some area is needed to transition between prescriptions. But the tradeoff can be optimized for the way you use them. The shape of the lens can also be customized to your specific measurements and visual habits. In my case, our optician had me hold reading material, and look into the distance, and carefully noted where my eyes naturally rested. Based on that, he could specify the exact parameters to be used in my new lenses.

This Individual 2 lens profile has a wide distance viewing area and a narrower one for reading and near vision.Vendors of free-form progressive lenses claim several resulting advantages. First, they should feel more natural, as the prescription in the lenses is designed based on the way you view things. Second, they are supposed to reduce glare and enhance contrast and color. As a sales pitch, they’re often marketed as “HD for your eyes.” I happen to have two nearly identical pairs of progressives, one with and one without a free-form design (a version of Zeiss’s Individual 2 in my case), so I’ve been able to do a homebrew comparison.

As far as overall vision in good light, I haven’t seen much difference. Both pairs correct my vision very well. What I have noticed is that seeing while driving at night seems improved with the free-form set. I suspect that is because of increased glare reduction, which in turn improves contrast. For even more control, there are free-form designs that do even more granular customization using an optician-provided app. However, those were even more money and I decided I didn’t need to go that far.

Aveo Vision: Aiming to Use High-Tech to Disrupt the Contact Lens Market

Founded by a contact lens wearer who struggled with existing lenses hurting her eyes, Aveo’s new daily-wear Hello contacts are marketed with an aggressive array of high-tech features. The company promotes its Aqualock technology that helps keep the lenses moist as a “Spa Day” for your eyes. Similarly, its aspheric optics are promised to give you “HD vision.” Even the dual-tapered shape of the lenses are branded as BlissEdge. Best-in-class breathability is also stressed. Indeed, they use a reasonably-breathable material, but so do some others. Aveo also claims a high-level of UV protection.

To get a sense of whether all these great buzzwords translate into a superior product, I alternated wearing a pair of Hello lenses with a pair of my current favorite lenses, Acuvue’s TruEye daily-wear disposables, on a day-by-day basis on an extended trip that included a lot of days of all-day outdoor activity. For starters, I should point out that the feature set for both brands of lenses reads nearly identically. TruEye has Hydraclear for keeping the lenses moist and claims the highest level of UV protection in the industry, for example. The Hello lenses have an oxygen permeability of 36.7 (x 10^-9), which is enough for daily wear, and typical of 58 percent water lenses like they are. The TruEyes, which are 46 percent water, come in at a refreshing 118 (x 10^-9), which is up there with extended wear lenses.

https://www.extremetech.com/electronics/279622-how-googles-night-sight-works-and-why-its-so-goodAs to the field test, the good news is that both lenses are great. If you are going to be able to wear contacts at all, these may be the ones (I moved to daily-wear lenses when I had issues with dry eyes using other kinds). The only glitch I found with the Hello lenses is that they’re flimsy. This doesn’t matter at all once you get them on, but it made it a little trickier to get them out of the container and into my eyes.

As to the claims of UV protection, both brands claim they are industry leading, but TruEye has better numbers. TruEye says they block 99.9 percent of UVB and about 96.9 percent of UVA, while Hello cites 97 percent of UVB and 87 percent of UVA. Our local optician thinks that unless the numbers are very close to 100 percent it isn’t really worth claiming as protection. My homebrew test revealed that a visible amount of 400nm got through with both of them, so I wouldn’t say that either is a complete substitute for wearing sunglasses (and contacts only block UV from the center of your eyes, not the rest of your eye or eyelids).

So, while Aveo has done a remarkable job by catching up with an established brand in a short amount of time, I don’t think the company’s big innovation is in the lenses themselves. Instead, it is likely in its high-profile, direct-to-consumer marketing, and its aggressive pricing of an innovative prescription model. For $ 1/day the company will send you a box containing 30 pairs of lenses each month. In contrast, even at discount outlets, TruEye lenses will cost you about $ 1.65/day. Top-of-the-line Oasys lenses are even more expensive, at over $ 4/day. For anyone on a budget or who’s stayed away from daily-wear lenses due to price, this could be compelling.

How to Tell if You Need Glasses

If you only need to test your distance vision, a home-printed eye chart can come in handy. Courtesy VisionSource.

Credit: Vision Source

Of course, the best way to find out if you need glasses is to have regular eye exams with an eye doctor. In the course of the exam, they’ll test your eyes and if needed provide a prescription you can use for contacts or eyeglasses. However, if you want to do a quick check on your own, you can certainly print out an eye chart like the one we’ve shown here from Vision Source, and tape it to the wall.

That will only give you an idea of distance acuity, though. Zeiss has provided an online version of a vision test that also gives you an idea of whether you are partially color blind. Note that online tests are quite dependent on the quality of your monitor, so take the results with a grain of salt. Aveo Vision has just introduced a $ 20 online test, that can then be used to get your prescription renewed online. I’m not entirely sure what I think of that. It’s great that it is accessible and inexpensive, but if people use it instead of being checked by a doctor, they aren’t going to know if they have other eye problems. It also only works if you’re at least 18 and not over 55.

The Value of an Optician

If this was a review of camera lenses, or earbuds, or disk drives, I might be all for you rushing out to buy whatever I thought was awesome. But vision care is a key health issue, complex, and highly personalized. So, in addition to having regular checkups with an ophthalmologist or optometrist, it is worth considering the value of a relationship with a local optician. Ours is very helpful at letting me try a variety of contact lenses and prescriptions, testing and retesting my visual acuity after correcting with different lenses and sorting through options on glasses.

That said, there are some pretty good values online if you know what you’re getting. Aveo, for example, provides a high-quality product for a good price. But some online contact lens sellers use older, cheaper, materials. That can be especially problematic if the material used doesn’t provide enough oxygen to keep your eyes healthy.

Now Read: New medical tech coming to the rescue for the vision-impairedHearing Aids: Better, Cheaper, and More Accessible Than Ever, and VR and Now AR Medical Solutions Are Gaining Ground in Hospitals.

Top Image Credit: Wikimedia

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FBI contacts Kavanaugh accuser Deborah Ramirez

The FBI has contacted Deborah Ramirez, who's accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct when he was a Yale student, as part of the bureau's investigation of the U.S. Supreme Court nominee, her attorney said Saturday.

Ramirez's lawyer, John Clune, said agents want to interview her and she has agreed to co-operate. Ramirez has said Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a party in the early 1980s when they were Yale students.

U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the FBI on Friday to reopen Kavanaugh's background investigation after several women accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.

Senate leaders agreed to delay a final vote on Kavanaugh's nomination to allow for a one-week FBI investigation. The Senate judiciary committee has said the probe should be limited to "current credible allegations" against Kavanaugh and be finished by next Friday.

Leaving the hearing Friday, Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, said it was his understanding there would be an FBI investigation of "the outstanding allegations, the three of them," but Republicans have not said whether that was their understanding as well.

Watch some of the competing testimony from Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing:

While the precise scope of the investigation remained unclear, Trump told reporters Saturday that "the FBI, as you know, is all over talking to everybody" and said "this could be a blessing in disguise."

"They have free rein. They're going to do whatever they have to do, whatever it is they do. They'll be doing things that we have never even thought of," he said. "And hopefully at the conclusion everything will be fine."

White House spokesperson Raj Shah said the Senate set the scope and duration of the investigation and that "the White House is letting the FBI agents do what they are trained to do."

Pledges to co-operate

The FBI conducts background checks for federal nominees, but the agency does not make judgments on the credibility or significance of allegations. The investigators will compile information about Kavanaugh's past and provide their findings to the White House and include the information in Kavanaugh's background file, which is available to senators.

Kavanaugh and another of his accusers, Christine Blasey Ford, who says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when both were teenagers, testified publicly before the Senate judiciary committee on Thursday.

Kavanaugh's high school friend Mark Judge, who Ford says was in the room when a drunken Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her, said that he will co-operate with any law enforcement agency that will "confidentially investigate" sexual misconduct allegations against him and Kavanaugh. Judge has also denied Ford's allegations.

Watch The National: From Anita Hill to Christine Blasey Ford: Has anything changed?

Twenty-seven years after Anita Hill testified against Judge Clarence Thomas, Christine Blasey Ford did the same against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, but has anything changed for women in that time? 8:18

Lawyers for P.J. Smyth and Leland Ingham Keyser, two others who Ford said were in the house when she was attacked, have said their clients are willing to co-operate "fully" with the FBI's investigation.

A third woman, Julie Swetnick, accused Kavanaugh and Judge of excessive drinking and inappropriate treatment of women in the early 1980s, among other accusations. Kavanaugh has called her accusations a "joke" and Judge has said he "categorically" denies the allegations.

Swetnick's attorney, Michael Avenatti, said Saturday afternoon that his client had not been contacted by the FBI but is willing to fully cooperate with investigators.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democratic member of the judiciary committee from Rhode Island, said he expects the FBI would provide adequate staffing for the investigation, with teams working in parallel to investigate separate allegations. Agents should get support from the judiciary committee for rapid immunity and subpoena decisions, he said.

Trump shifts tone on Ford

Last week, Trump tweeted that "if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed" with local police. On Thursday night, he attacked Democrats, saying they have a "search and destroy strategy" and said "this process has been a total sham and effort to delay, obstruct and resist."

After Ford appeared before the Judiciary Committee, Trump said her testimony was "very compelling" and that she appeared to be "certainly a very credible witness."

In the last week, Trump has spoken repeatedly with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has scolded Trump about comments that appeared to cast doubt on Ford's claim, according to two Republicans familiar with the discussions but not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.

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