Tag Archives: visits

FBI visits real estate office where person of interest in Nashville explosion worked: reports

FBI agents investigating the Nashville motor home explosion have visited a real estate agency where a person of interest in the bombing had worked on computers, local media reported on Sunday.

Steve Fridrich, owner of Fridrich & Clark Realty in Nashville’s Green Hills neighbourhood, told the Tennessean newspaper he spoke with the agents late on Saturday about Anthony Q. Warner, 63, after the company told the FBI he had worked there.

According to public records, Warner had lived at a home in Antioch, southeast of Nashville, that was searched on Saturday by officials with the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives following the huge Christmas Day blast.

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department confirmed that Warner is under investigation in the case.

Federal agents have said they are following up on more than 500 leads and are working to identify what appear to be human remains found in the wreckage.

WATCH | Nashville explosion wounds 3:

The CBC’s Derek Stoffel reports on the latest developments on the explosion that shook the largely deserted streets of downtown Nashville early Christmas morning. 1:31

The explosion in the heart of the U.S. country music capital injured three people and damaged more than 40 businesses, including an AT&T switching centre — disrupting mobile, internet and TV services across central Tennessee and parts of four other states.

Fridrich said that for four or five years, Warner had come into the office roughly once a month to provide computer consulting services, until this month — when Warner told the company in an email that he would no longer be working there. He gave no reason, Fridrich said.

“He seemed very personable to us. This is quite out of character I think,” he told the newspaper.

At a news conference on Sunday, five Nashville police officers who were on the scene early on Friday recalled the dramatic moments ahead of the explosion, when they scrambled to evacuate homes and buildings and called for a bomb squad, which was en route when the motor home blew up.

A person of interest in the case is believed to have been a consultant who used computers at a real estate office once a month. ‘He seemed very personable to us,’ the owner of Fridrich & Clark Realty told a Tennessee newspaper. (Harrison McClary/Reuters)

Officers had heard music and an automated announcement coming from the RV warning them about the impending explosion as they sprang into action, requesting access codes for buildings and trying to shepherd as many residents to safety as possible.

“I was thrown forward, knocked to the ground,” Officer Brenna Hosey told reporters about the moment of the explosion. “But I was able to catch myself, I was fine.”

The officers, who were initially responding to reports of gunfire in the area, have been hailed as heroes by city leaders.

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CBC | World News

Person of interest identified in Nashville RV explosion as FBI visits home

Federal agents converged Saturday on the home of a possible person of interest in the explosion that rocked downtown Nashville as investigators scoured hundreds of tips and leads in the blast that pulverized city blocks on Christmas morning and damaged dozens of buildings.

More than 24 hours after the explosion, a motive remained elusive as investigators worked around-the-clock to resolve unanswered questions about a recreational vehicle that blew up on a mostly deserted street on a sleepy holiday morning and was prefaced by a recorded warning advising those nearby to evacuate. The attack, which damaged an AT&T building, continued to wreak havoc Saturday on cellphone service and police and hospital communications in several southern states.

Investigators from multiple federal and local law enforcement agencies were at a home in Antioch, in suburban Nashville, after receiving information relevant to the investigation, said FBI Special Agent Jason Pack. Another law enforcement official, who was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said investigators regard a person associated with the property as a person of interest.

Federal agents could be seen looking around the property, searching the home and the backyard. A Google Maps image had shown a similar recreational vehicle parked in the backyard when the photo was captured in May 2019; an Associated Press reporter at the scene did not see the vehicle at the property in the late afternoon Saturday.

There were other signs of progress in the investigation, as the FBI revealed that it was looking at a number of individuals who may be connected to it. Officials also said no additional explosive devices have been found — indicating no active threat to the area. Investigators have received about 500 tips and leads.

A vehicle burns near the site of an explosion in Nashville on Christmas Day. Officials say the explosion was intentional but have not provided a motive. (Andrew Nelles/Tennesssean.com/USA Today/Reuters)

“It’s just going to take us some time,” Douglas Korneski, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Memphis field office, said at a Saturday afternoon news conference. “Our investigative team is turning over every stone” to understand who did this and why.

Human remains found at scene

Separately, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency said in a report Saturday that tissue samples found at the scene were determined to be human remains.

The attack continued to wreak havoc on communications systems across the state. Police emergency systems in Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama, as well as Nashville’s COVID-19 community hotline and a handful of hospital systems, remained out of service due to an AT&T central office being affected by the blast. The building contained a telephone exchange, with network equipment in it — but the company has declined to say exactly how many people have been impacted.

WATCH | Nashville explosion wounds 3:

The CBC’s Derek Stoffel reports on the latest developments on the explosion that shook the largely deserted streets of downtown Nashville early Christmas morning. 1:31

Investigators shut down the heart of downtown Nashville’s tourist scene — an area packed with honky-tonks, restaurants and shops — as they shuffled through broken glass and damaged buildings to learn more about the explosion.

Mayor John Cooper has enforced a curfew in the downtown area until Sunday via executive order to limit public access to the area.

AT&T said restoration efforts are facing several challenges, which include a fire that “reignited overnight and led to the evacuation of the building.” This has forced their teams to work with safety and structural engineers and to drill access holes into the building in order to reconnect power.

“Our teams continue to work around the clock on recovery efforts from yesterday morning’s explosion in Nashville,” the company said in a Saturday statement. “We have two portable cell sites operating in downtown Nashville with numerous additional portable sites being deployed in the Nashville area and in the region.”

Communications systems damaged

Gov. Bill Lee asked the White House on Saturday for federal assistance due to the “severity and magnitude” of the explosion’s impact. At least 41 buildings were damaged, and communications systems — including residential and cellphone service and 911 call centres — failed across the state, he said. Kentucky and northern Alabama were also affected, he said.

Ray Neville, president of technology at T-Mobile, said on Twitter that service disruptions affected Louisville, Ky., Nashville, Knoxville, Tenn., Birmingham Ala., and Atlanta. “We continue to see service interruptions in these areas following yesterday’s explosion. Restoration efforts continue around the clock & we will keep you updated on progress,” he said in a tweet Saturday.

The explosion damaged dozens of buildings. (Nashville Fire Department/Reuters)

The outages had even briefly grounded flights at the Nashville International Airport, but service was continuing normally as of Saturday. The Federal Aviation Administration has since issued a temporary flight restriction around the airport, requiring pilots to follow strict procedures until Dec. 30.

According to Metro Nashville police Chief John Drake, police officers responded on Friday to a report of shots fired when they encountered the RV blaring a recorded warning that a bomb would detonate in 15 minutes. Police evacuated nearby buildings and called in the bomb squad. The RV exploded shortly afterward.

Law enforcement officials have said since shortly after the explosion occurred at about 6:30 a.m. CT that they believe the blast was intentional. They have not talked publicly about a possible target or motive.

In West Virginia, a hospital system said Saturday that it was experiencing network connection issues directly related to the Nashville explosion. South Charleston-based Thomas Health, which operates two hospitals, said on its Facebook page that it didn’t have an estimated time of restoration.

Similarly, Sumner Regional Medical Center in Gallatin, Tenn., said on its Facebook page that it was operating without access to some of its systems, including medical records.

“We prepare for situations like this and moved immediately to paper records. There has been no disruption to the delivery of patient care, and no cause for concern for this temporary issue,” the centre said in a post Friday.

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CBC | World News

Canadians in poor neighbourhoods had most COVID-related ER visits, data shows

New data further illustrates COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on the poor.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) says residents of Canada’s least affluent neighbourhoods had the greatest number and percentage of COVID-19 hospitalizations and emergency department visits as of Aug. 31.

Researchers looked at COVID-19 hospitalizations in Canada excluding Quebec between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31, 2020.

They found 29.2 per cent involved those living in the country’s least affluent neighbourhoods, while 12.9 per cent involved those living in the most affluent neighbourhoods.

The in-hospital death rate was 21 per cent for patients who lived in poorer areas, compared with 18 per cent for those in the most well-off areas.

Patients who died in hospital had a median age of 81.

CIHI says there were more than 8,100 hospital stays for patients diagnosed with COVID-19 from January to August 2020.

During the same period, there were more than 48,600 ER visits and 21 per cent of those patients were admitted to the hospital.

The in-hospital death rate was 19 per cent for females and 21 per cent for males.

Public health officials have said the novel coronavirus has hit lower-income groups and minorities harder than the rest of the population.

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CBC | Health News

Canadian ER visits dropped by half during 1st wave of pandemic, national data shows

Emergency and operating rooms across the country were historically empty during the first months of the pandemic, according to national data compiled by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

The biggest dips were seen in Quebec and Ontario. Between March and June, Ontario reported seeing about half the usual number of ER patients on 19 days. In Quebec, that significant drop happened 15 times.

In Quebec, there were 3,100 fewer emergency room visits per day between March and June, compared to the same period in 2019, according to a CBC News analysis of CIHI figures. In Ontario, that’s the equivalent of 5,400 fewer daily visits.

Even provinces with few or no cases of COVID-19 reported their emergency departments were emptier than usual around mid-March. 

“The most unexpected finding for us was the consistency,” said Tracy Johnson, director of Health System Analysis and Emerging Issues with CIHI. 

“A bit surprising and a bit concerning … there was anecdotal evidence through physicians that said that they felt people weren’t showing up with some urgent problems and we do see a 20 per cent decrease in some of those urgent problems.”

Sicker patients still not showing up, says ER doctor

These figures depict exactly what Dr. Frederic Dankoff, emergency physician and medical co-ordinator at Montreal’s McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), experienced in the first wave.

“It was very abnormal. We have seen a very significant reduction. I would call it too significant,” said Dankoff.

“We have all seen a reduction in patients presenting with chest pains. If that patient did visit an emergency department after the first wave, that’s fine. But if that person hasn’t, they might have had their heart attack and still haven’t been examined.”

Dankoff, who still works full-time in emergency medicine, said he has seen sicker patients come back to hospital, but not nearly in numbers high enough to make up for what he normally would treat in the four-month period that the first wave lasted.

One Toronto cardiologist also told CBC he was initially worried that some patients were hesitant to come to the hospital after the first wave, but he said that isn’t the case now.

“As we restarted, our patients were sicker than what they would be in our steady state a year ago,” said Dr. Harindra Wijeysundera, spokesperson for the Canadian Cardiovascular Society and cardiologist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto.

That’s an experience that now seems to be backed by CIHI’s new data: their analysis found that ER visits related to heart disease and trauma have fallen by more than 20 per cent across the country.

Emergency room deaths have also increased by six per cent — more than 5,700 patients have died there this year, compared to 5,400 deaths recorded for the same period last year.

Dramatic drop in ER visits for children

Although Canadians over 65 were the ones told to be more cautious in early months, the biggest drop in ER attendance was actually recorded for newborns, children and teenagers.

Emergency personnel treated up to 74 per cent fewer cases of viral and respiratory infections, including colds and flu, allergic reactions, accidental injury visits and mild trauma, CIHI’s new data shows.

This drop is not unusual, according to Dr. Caroline Quach, pediatrician and microbiologist-infectious disease specialist at Montreal’s Sainte-Justine Hospital.

“In the vast majority of cities, schools were closed from March to June. If there is no one at school, there is no transmission of viruses,” she said. 

“People were also wearing masks, which we know work, and parents were more aware that they can’t just give their sick kid some Tylenol and send them to daycare.”

Quach also said that many group sports were cancelled, which might have contributed to a drop in ER visits related to accidents, trauma and fractures in children.

Decrease in ER wait times

According to Dankoff, Canada’s all-time low in ER attendance had a silver lining for hospital personnel and some patients.

First, he said the drop in attendance gave emergency personnel time to adjust to the new public health measures introduced to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

It also meant that patients who did decide to go to the ER were treated in record time. Between March and June, the median wait time for a first consultation with an ER doctor dropped by 20 minutes in some provinces and territories and by as much as an hour in others.

As a result of these shorter wait times, CIHI figures suggest that the number of people with urgent problems who left ERs before they could be diagnosed by a doctor dropped considerably.

“This is a good thing. It means that fewer people have left without being seen,” Dankoff explained. “We think the people who took the time to think about it, but came despite their fear, were determined to wait.”

Hundreds of thousands of surgeries cancelled or postponed

In Canada, about 382,000 surgeries were performed between March and June 2020 compared to about 718,000 during the same period in 2019, according to CIHI — that’s about 335,000 fewer surgeries, or a 46 per cent decrease.

That number is an estimate that will likely rise sharply in coming months, as Quebec has yet to release its own data on surgeries. The province has said that at least 90,000 surgeries were postponed during the first wave of COVID-19, but it wasn’t able to provide comparable data to CIHI at this time.

Again, this downward trend can be observed across the country, even in provinces where COVID-19 cases were very low during the first wave.

According to CIHI, the dramatic decrease in the number of surgeries nationwide may partly explain why hospital admissions fell by 36 per cent and critical care admissions fell by more than 20 per cent in the spring.

CIHI’s Johnson said these significant and rapid declines in surgical procedures demonstrate how quickly provinces and hospitals have had to respond to the emergence of COVID-19 and ensure that the health system is not overwhelmed.

“We had no idea what the first wave was going to look like. And if it looked like Wuhan or like Italy, we were going to be in big trouble,” Johnson said. “So the reaction was immediately to make sure that we had space in hospitals and space in ICU for anybody who might need it.”

Many hospital workers in Canada were dispatched to long-term care homes to help with large outbreaks. As well, a shortage of certain sedatives commonly used during surgery prompted hospitals to cancel some non-urgent surgical procedures, said Quach, the Montreal pediatrician.

However, CIHI’s data shows that just before starting these cancellations, hospitals did one last operating blitz. “They tried to be proactive and operate on the most urgent patients,” said Johnson.

Surgery drop ‘deeply concerning’ to cancer care advocates 

When looking at surgeries by type, CIHI’s analysis found decreases in 84 per cent of day surgeries, 69 per cent of planned surgeries, 38 per cent of surgeries for heart problems and 29 per cent of cancer surgeries.

“It is deeply concerning to us that there are people with cancer who need surgery, but have had their treatment postponed or delayed due to the pandemic,” the Canadian Cancer Society said in a written statement to CBC News.

“We know that the earlier the cancer is treated, the more successful the outcome.”

When looking at the drop in surgeries he’s seen, Toronto cardiologist Wijeysundera said it is always a concern when patients who need help don’t come to the hospital.

“They just got really sick and had adverse events outside a hospital,” he said. “And we don’t have that information yet. Time will tell if that’s the case.”

However, he said hospitals have learned many lessons from the first wave and are now better prepared for subsequent waves — and data like this is very helpful to plan for future crises.

“We are very vigilant and we know that at some point it will be necessary to slow down the number of surgeries,” Wijeysundera said. “Everyone wonders what’s the best time to do it, because you don’t want to act too quickly, but you don’t want to intervene too late.”

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CBC | Health News

Restrictions on care home visits traumatize families, caregivers

It’s a sunny fall day but there’s a chill in the air, so Laura Meffen grabs an extra layer before she and her son head to their van, smiling and balancing bags full of toys and snacks. They’re off to see Meffen’s 22-year-old daughter Emily, who lives in a care facility a few kilometres away.

The home recently allowed outdoor visits, for about an hour each time. Meffen chases away the thought of how quickly that time goes by.

“I try not to think of the ending,” Meffen says, her eyes watering. “I think of the joy, the laughter, the fun we have. I always make the visits fun for her. And we just try not to think of the end.”

Like many families and caregivers with family members in care settings, the pandemic has taken an emotional toll on Meffen. From full lockdowns to the more recent restricted visits, many like Meffen have spent the entire pandemic desperately trying to get closer to the ones they love.

  • WATCH | The feature about trauma caused by having family members in long-term care, Sunday Oct. 18 on The National at 9 p.m. ET on CBC News Network and 10 p.m. local time on your CBC television station. You can also catch The National online on CBC Gem.

Emily has lived at Participation House in Markham, Ont., for the past two years. Participation House is a care setting for adults with severe disabilities. Emily has a neuro-degenerative disease and requires round-the-clock care.

When the pandemic hit the home in April, Emily got infected and so did Meffen. They’ve recovered, although Meffen still battles fatigue and a cough.

Her bigger fight now is against the agonizing uncertainty of what comes next.

“We went through a lot with COVID, it was traumatic. It really was. So I understand not being able to go in, but I need to be with my daughter. I need to make sure she’s OK. I need to have her know that I’m there, that I haven’t abandoned her.”

Laura Meffen and her family are only allowed short outdoor visits with Emily at her care home. ‘It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, not being there with her and being able to comfort her,’ Meffen said. (Jared Thomas/CBC)

Emily squeals in delight as a staff member wheels her out to meet with her mother and brother under a gazebo on the home’s grounds. She has limited verbal skills, but there’s no mistaking her joy — and her confusion, too, as she reaches out for a hug and no one leans in. Meffen has to keep her distance.

And it’s tearing her apart.

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, not being there with her and being able to comfort her like a mother can only comfort a daughter. It just, it devastates me.”

‘She needed love and attention’

For Marla DiGiacomo, the pandemic has been an exhausting battle. DiGiacomo helped organize one protest after another in front of Extendicare Guildwood, a long-term care facility in Toronto where her 86-year-old mother Helen, who has dementia, has lived for the past nine years.

DiGiacomo’s mother also got COVID-19 but had no symptoms, although she was weak.

Friends and family members of residents at Extendicare Guildwood Long-Term Care home in Toronto, where dozens of residents died as a result of COVID-19, hold a rally on June 12. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

DiGiacomo fought hard for the right to see her mother, and two months after the lockdown, she finally did. It was a window visit, and the sight of her mother devastated her.

“When we first saw her, she was in such terrible condition,” DiGiacomo says. “She had lost 30 pounds. She was unresponsive.”

DiGiacomo went back to the home the day after that first window visit during mealtime, and saw a staff member leave a tray of food at her mother’s bedside. Her mother struggled to get to it.

“I was outside the window and she was trying to get the food with her hands. That’s when I just lost it. I realized she hadn’t been fed — nobody was helping her, assisting her. She was incapable of feeding herself.”

DiGiacomo says she immediately started to advocate for better care, and to be allowed inside to be with her mother. She argued her mother needed not only nutrition, but was starving for affection too.

“I approached them and said look, my mother is lacking human contact. She needs affection, attention, and touch. That’s what she needed as much as food. She needed love and attention.”

Marla DiGiacomo, right, had to fight hard to see her mother Helen in a long-term care home during the COVID-19 lockdown. (Marla DiGiacomo)

It took weeks of relentless pressure before DiGiacomo was finally allowed inside in August.

Since then, Ontario has issued a directive clarifying that essential visitors include caregivers. But directives can change, and DiGiacomo is afraid of being shut out again.

The impact on her mental health, she says, has been enormous. She says she cries often, can’t sleep and feels a constant sense of dread. There’s a raw agony in her voice, even now.

“It’s taken a large toll. I’ve aged, you know? And I’m scared. I’m scared that she’ll get it again. I’m scared of what will happen there.”

Ensuring caregiver rights

The trauma caregivers have experienced and the toll taken on them has been eclipsed by the brunt of illness and deaths in long-term care settings since the pandemic, but that doesn’t make it any less concerning.

“Over my 10 years of studying caregiving, I’ve never seen anything like this kind of burden or trauma placed on caregivers,” says Vivian Stamatopoulos, an associate teaching professor at Ontario Tech University who specializes in family caregiving.

“It’s tantamount to a form of post-traumatic stress caused from forced helplessness.”

Stamatopoulos is an outspoken critic of systemic failings in long-term care, especially chronic staff shortages. She says prior to the pandemic, families filled gaps in care, often visiting during mealtimes to make sure their loved ones were eating and to make sure they were safe. It’s why Stamatopoulos says it was so hard for them to be forced out by COVID-19.

“That kind of trauma — of knowing that you can help, and you’re available to help and you want to help, and you had been helping for God knows how long before the pandemic struck, however long that loved one was in care. That is the story that really hasn’t been out there, and which should get out there, because it’s a very serious level of trauma.”

Vivian Stamatopoulos, an associate teaching professor at Ontario Tech University who specializes in family caregiving, says the inability of families to see their loved ones in care homes is, ‘tantamount to a form of post-traumatic stress caused from forced helplessness.’ (Jared Thomas/CBC)

Restrictions in most care settings have eased since the initial pandemic lockdown, but policies vary from home to home and the fear is that the access won’t last.

Stamatopoulos’s outspokenness has turned her into an accidental advocate, she says. Dozens of families have reached out to her on Twitter, and she’s supporting them as they pressure the Ontario government to pass legislation that would guarantee caregivers access at all times. Bill 203, the More Than a Visitor Act, has been referred to the Ontario Standing Committee on Social Policy.

Families across the country are rallying for similar laws.

“We really need to get ahead of this and have this in law,” says Stamatopoulos. “Ontario right now is so close to setting the precedent. I think it will really push the needle forward in terms of caregiver rights.”

A law would clear the uncertainty, and give caregivers the peace of mind of knowing what to expect even as pandemic conditions change.

Back in Markham, Laura Meffen’s visit with her daughter Emily is winding down. She packs away the toys she brought with her and tries to sound cheery as Emily grows quiet, as she does at the end of every visit. Emily’s home hasn’t guaranteed indoor visits when it gets too cold to meet outside. With COVID-19 cases on the rise again, Meffen is afraid of more restrictions. Afraid every visit could be the last one for some time.

The hardest part for Meffen is when Emily wants to know when her mother will come back.

“And I can’t tell her. I don’t know when I will be able to see her again. I don’t know when I’m going to be able to give her a hug again, and be in the same room with her, and be able to take her home. And that is heartbreaking. It’s heart wrenching.”

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CBC | Health News

B.C. to allow designated visits for residents in long-term care after months of restrictions

B.C. is easing restrictions for visits in long-term care homes and assisted living facilities across the province, allowing residents to have in-person visits for the first time since March.

Residents will be able to see one person at a time — a single, “designated” visitor — in a designated area. The visits will be booked in advance and can happen indoors, outdoors or, in some cases, in a single room.

Visitors will be screened for illness upon entry and must wear a mask.

For many residents, it will be the first time they’ve seen somebody they love in three-and-a-half months.

“There have been many dark and anxious days, but today is a brighter day for us all,” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday.

The designated visitor will be trained on using personal protective equipment, or PPE, to ensure the visit happens safely.

Visits will not be allowed in facilities with ongoing outbreaks of COVID-19. There are currently five such outbreaks in B.C.

Henry said residents of long-term care or assisted living facilities should still limit their visits outside to essential trips only. She said personal service providers such as barbers and hairdressers will also be now allowed into facilities, so long as they follow safety protocol.

Henry said the risk in communities is low enough and the supply of PPE strong enough to start opening visits up.

“We’re tipping the balance now where not having your family, not having your loved one, is starting to outweigh the risks. But it is a very fine balance,” she said.

“I will admit that I am anxious, but also hopeful.”

Dr. Bonnie Henry says the decision of when to allow long-term care home residents visitors has caused her “the most distress in the last few months”:

B.C.’s provincial health officer says the risk of COVID-19 is low enough to ease restrictions for the first time in three months. 2:18

To help facilitate safe visits, Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province is providing more than $ 160 million so long-term care and assisted living facilities for seniors can hire more full-time staff. Dix said the money will equate to about 2,040 additional staff for more than 680 homes across the province, both public and private.

Non-essential visits were banned from care homes after health officials declared an outbreak inside the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver in early March.

Seniors and elders are most at risk for serious illness and death if they become sick with COVID-19. Dix said nearly 100 people in long-term care have died of the illness provincewide. Several more in assisted living have also died.

Patricia Grinsteed, right, visits her daughter through a glass barrier at the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver on June 23. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Henry said it is critical for loved ones to cancel visits if they feel the slightest bit unwell, so as not to undo the progress made over the past few months.

“To all of the seniors and elders in our care homes: thank you. This has been a difficult time for you, being separated from the ones you love. For many people, with things like dementia, it can be a very confusing and difficult time,” Henry said.

“You have shown resilience, determination and courage despite this challenge… As we move forward, we’ll all do this slowly and carefully, so that sacrifice is not wasted.”

Long-term care homes have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic and new outbreaks continue to happen, but experts say B.C. has fared better than other provinces like Ontario and Quebec in slowing the spread of the virus inside the facilities.

Around 32,000 people in B.C. live in long-term care or assisted living. Henry said the visitation policy will be reviewed monthly.

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CBC | Health News

Star Sightings: Ariel Winter Debuts Red Hair, Selena Gomez Visits Chicago, Emma Stone Sweetens Up & More!

Star Sightings: Ariel Winter Debuts Red Hair, Selena Gomez Visits Chicago, Emma Stone Sweetens Up & More! | Entertainment Tonight

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China’s president visits health centre as coronavirus death toll rises

The latest: 

  • Death toll in mainland China hits 1,016 as case numbers hit 42,638.
  • President Xi Jinping appears at health centre amid questions about handling of outbreak.
  • WHO chief warns of ‘very grave threat’ and calls for more research at opening of two-day summit of experts.
  • Second Canadian flight from China lands at CFB Trenton this morning with 185 passengers on board.
  • Top public health official says risk low in Canada, no immediate plan to change isolation rules.

China’s daily death toll from a new virus topped 100 for the first time and pushed the total past 1,000 dead, authorities said Tuesday after leader Xi Jinping visited a health centre to rally public morale amid little sign the contagion is abating.

Though more offices and stores in China were reopening after the extended Lunar New Year break, many people appear to be staying home. Public health authorities are closely monitoring whether workers’ returning to cities and businesses resuming worsens the spread of the virus.

In a bid to boost morale, Xi was featured on state broadcaster CCTV’s main news report Tuesday night visiting a community health centre in Beijing and expressing confidence in the “war against the disease.”

The country’s president and leader of the ruling Communist Party was shown wearing a surgical mask and having his temperature taken before expressing his thanks to health workers on behalf of the party and government. “We will most definitely win this people’s war,” Xi said.

Xi’s appearance comes amid questioning of the government’s handling of the crisis, particularly the failure of local officials in the worst-hit city of Wuhan to clarify the extent of the crisis.

WATCH | CBC’s Saša Petricic reports from Beijing, where the outbreak has led to an eerie emptiness:

CBC’s Sasa Petricic looks at how the coronavirus outbreak has brought an eerie emptiness to the normally jam-packed streets of Beijing and how people are responding. 2:11

Public anger has been inflamed over the death of a young doctor from the virus who had earlier been threatened along with seven others by police for warning online of the potential for a major outbreak as early as December.

The virus outbreak has become the latest political challenge for Xi, who despite accruing more political power for himself than any Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, has struggled to handle crises on multiple fronts, including a sharply slowing domestic economy, trade with the U.S. and push-back on China’s increasingly aggressive foreign policies.

WHO boss warns of ‘very grave threat’

As the number of deaths from the virus rose in China, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said the outbreak poses a “very grave threat for the rest of the world.”

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was addressing the start of a two-day meeting aimed at accelerating development of drugs, diagnostics and vaccines against the flu-like virus amid growing concerns about its ability to spread.

“With 99 per cent of cases in China, this remains very much an emergency for that country, but one that holds a very grave threat for the rest of the world,” he told more than 400 researchers and national authorities, including some taking part by video conference from mainland China and Taiwan.

A staff member wearing a protective mask and suit works at a supermarket in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak of the coronavirus, in China’s central Hubei province. (AFP/Getty Images)

The National Health Commission said in its daily update that 108 deaths had been reported over the previous 24 hours, increasing the total to 1,016 deaths in mainland China since the illnesses began appearing in December. The total is well beyond the toll of the 2002-03 outbreak of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which is caused by a different coronavirus related to the current pathogen.

The number of newly confirmed cases fell slightly to 2,478 from 3,062 the day before, bringing the total to 42,638 on the mainland. Some of the patients have since been cured and released from hospital.

The crossing of more grim thresholds is dimming optimism that the near-quarantine of some 60 million people and other disease-control measures might be working.

The coronavirus outbreak, which is centred in Wuhan, China, has caused concern around the world as experts struggle to learn more about the virus. A second Canadian charter flight carrying people who had been in Hubei province landed at CFB Trenton in Ontario Tuesday morning. The people on board the flight will spend 14 days living on the base under quarantine, as are the passengers who arrived on an earlier flight.

In Hong Kong, authorities partially evacuated an apartment block after two cases among its residents raised suspicion the virus may be spreading through the building’s plumbing.

It was reminiscent of the SARS outbreak that killed hundreds in the semi-autonomous Chinese city. The biggest number of connected cases in that outbreak were in one apartment complex where the virus spread through sewage pipes.

Britain, meanwhile, declared the virus a “serious and imminent threat to public health” and said it would forcibly detain infected people if necessary. France tested scores of children and their parents after five British tourists contracted the virus at a ski resort.

People wearing protective suits stand near the Cheung Hong Estate, a public housing estate, during an evacuation operation on Tuesday to halt the potential spread of the novel coronavirus after a few cases were detected there. (Kin Cheung/The Associated Press)

The Beijing city government told residential compounds in the capital to close their gates, check visitors for fever and record their identities. The government also warned people to strictly abide by regulations requiring wearing of masks in public and to avoid group activities.

More than 440 cases have been confirmed outside mainland China, including two deaths in Hong Kong and the Philippines.

Of those, 135 are from a cruise ship quarantined in Yokohama, near Tokyo. Japan’s Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said the government was considering testing everyone remaining of the 3,711 passengers and crew on the Diamond Princess, which would require them to remain aboard until results were available.

Rebecca Frasure, one of the Diamond Princess passengers who tested positive for coronavirus, said she “was really dumbfounded” when she was diagnosed.

Fraser, who is from Oregon, is currently being monitored in a Tokyo hospital. She said she feels well and no longer has any symptoms.

“Basically, I’m just in isolation so as not to pass it along to anyone else,” she told CBC’s Heather Hiscox.

She’ll be tested again 14 days after her diagnosis. If the two required tests come back clear, she can be reunited with her husband, who is still living under quarantine aboard the cruise ship. 

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ER visits jumped after valsartan blood pressure medication recall, study says

A large recall of contaminated medications appeared to spark confusion among many hypertension patients who were forced to give up the drug last year, with many turning to hospital emergency departments for medical help, a new study says. 

The Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (IC/ES) says emergency department visits jumped 55 per cent among those affected by a Health Canada recall of some valsartan products. The institute’s findings were published in the journal Circulation.

Lead author Cynthia Jackevicius said that while the number of people who went to emergency was relatively small at just 0.17 per cent of affected patients, the increase was still significant.

The medications were taken off the market in July 2018 after they were found to contain an impurity called N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), a potential carcinogen that can cause cancer with long-term exposure.

Drugs containing valsartan are used to treat high blood pressure and help prevent heart attacks and stroke. They are also used by patients who have had heart failure or a recent heart attack.

Researchers examined the impact on 55,461 affected patients and found that 10.7 per cent did not replace their medication within the three months that followed. Of those studied, 95 per cent had hypertension, while five per cent had heart failure. The average age was 76.

It wasn’t clear whether the emergency patients were among the 10 per cent who failed to replace their medication, or whether they went to hospital to get a new prescription, or lost control of their hypertension.

Media ‘may have heightened the alarm’

Jackevicius said the data suggests the need for better co-ordination between Health Canada, prescribers and pharmacists when a recall is announced.

“While government agencies issued advisories to continue taking medications until contacting their prescribers, there is a high potential for misunderstanding by patients, particularly given the mass media news that may have heightened the alarm regarding the potential negative consequences,” said the report.

“Patients may have been willing to risk the short-term potential of uncontrolled hypertension to avoid ingesting a potential carcinogen.”

Before the recall, emergency room visits by the group studied averaged 0.11 per cent per month. In the month following the recall, the rate jumped to 0.17 per cent.

Researchers also found a delayed six per cent spike in emergency department visits for stroke patients taking valsartan, as well as an eight per cent jump in hospitalizations — but most of that jump did not appear until November of last year. 

Health Canada announced a voluntary recall of six generic valsartan products in July 2018 due to NDMA.

At the time, the Canadian Pharmacists Association told affected patients they should not stop taking their medication without consulting their health-care provider. Health Canada conveyed a similar message, urging patients to check with their health-care provider to see if their particular medication was affected.  

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Swallowed toys, coins, batteries spark rise in toddler ER visits in U.S.

The number of young kids who went to U.S. emergency rooms because they swallowed toys, coins, batteries and other objects has nearly doubled, a new study says.

In 2015, there were nearly 43,000 such visits among kids under 6, compared with 22,000 in 1995, according to the study published Friday in the journal Pediatrics. The rate jumped from almost 10 per 10,000 ER visits to 18 per 10,000.

The increase “rang some alarms,” said Dr. Danielle Orsagh-Yentis, the lead author and a gastrointestinal physician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

Orsagh-Yentis noted that an increasing number of consumer products use potentially dangerous button-sized batteries, including TV remotes, digital thermometers and remote-controlled toys, which likely contributed to the increase.

She said her interest in studying the trend began during her training, “when we were all being called in in the middle of the night at odd hours to remove foreign bodies from either the esophagus or stomachs of children.”

Her research team analyzed a nationwide database of non-fatal emergency room visits for children younger than age 6. Almost 800,000 children were treated during the study years after swallowing foreign objects. Coins, batteries and toys accounted for most of the visits.

Try to see the world from a child’s point of view by getting on the floor so that you are at your child’s eye level.– Morag Mackay

While 90 per cent of treated children were sent home without hospitalization, severe internal injuries and deaths have been reported. Batteries and small high-powered magnets often marketed as desk toys for adults are among the most dangerous objects.

When kids swallow more than one powerful magnet, the objects can attract each inside the intestines, boring holes into the abdomen that can lead to life-threatening blood poisoning.

In recent years, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued safety warnings and orders to stop sales of some magnets, citing dozens of hospitalizations and at least one toddler death.

The agency also has warned about dangers from button-sized batteries, which when swallowed can trigger a chemical reaction that can burn holes through tissue inside the throat.

Children who swallow batteries or magnets may vomit or complain of abdominal pain. They “should be brought to the emergency room as quickly as possible,” Orsagh-Yentis said.

Morag Mackay of Safe Kids Worldwide, an injury prevention advocacy group, called for more research to understand why the incidents are on the rise. She said parents and caregivers need to be vigilant.

“Try to see the world from a child’s point of view by getting on the floor so that you are at your child’s eye level. Keep small objects such as coins, batteries, magnets, buttons or jewelry out of reach and sight,” Mackay said.

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