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Science + Tech

A Path to Eliminate the Pandemic in Canada. And More Science Journal News

The latest roundup of pandemic findings gathered by Hakai Magazine.

Brian Owens 11 Aug 2020 | Hakai Magazine

Brian Owens is a freelance science writer and editor based in St. Stephen, New Brunswick. His work has appeared in Hakai Magazine, Nature, New Scientist, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the Lancet and others.

Compiled by veteran medical journalist Brian Owens, this roundup of some of the newest science on the COVID-19 pandemic, straight from the scientific journals, is presented by Hakai Magazine in partnership with The Tyee.

Canada needs to continue and enhance interventions to control pandemic

To control and eliminate the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, governments need to enhance case detection and contact tracing, and people should maintain physical distancing, according to research by the Public Health Agency of Canada. The study found that without any interventions, 64.6 per cent of Canadians will eventually become infected, and 3.6 per cent of those would die. Baseline testing and tracing, without physical distancing, would only reduce the infection rate to 56.1 per cent. But enhanced testing and tracing, along with continued physical distancing, drops the rate to 0.2 per cent and is the only scenario that consistently keeps hospitals and intensive care unit bed use under capacity. Practicing all three interventions would prevent nearly all deaths and eventually eliminate the pandemic.

Canadian Medical Association Journal, Aug. 9, 2020

What price did countries put on life?

Some countries have been willing to take far bigger economic hits than others to save lives during the pandemic. Researchers realized this after estimating the number of lives that could have been saved had various countries imposed lockdowns earlier than they actually did, and comparing that with the economic losses of lockdown. This let them calculate how much economic activity each country was willing to sacrifice per life saved. They found that in some countries, such as the United Kingdom, United States and Italy, where lockdowns were delayed, the “price of life” was the lowest, at around US$100,000. In contrast, Germany was willing to sacrifice more than $1 million per life. In South Korea and New Zealand, the price of life was $6.7 million and $11.6 million respectively.

Environmental and Resource Economics, Aug. 4, 2020

Learning more reduces stress about COVID-19

The more people know about COVID-19, the less pandemic-related stress they have, according to a new study in the United States. The researchers believe that because uncertainty can be highly stressful, learning more about a novel threat can reduce that stress. So, keep reading to learn more and keep stress down!

Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Aug. 3, 2020

Transmission was low in Australian schools

The rate of COVID-19 transmission in schools in the Australian state of New South Wales was extremely limited during the first wave of the pandemic. Researchers say that transmission in schools appears to be considerably lower than for other respiratory viruses, such as influenza. They caution that the results are specific to the local outbreak in that state. Higher rates of transmission may occur in areas with higher levels of community transmission, or with less rigorous public health and community responses.

The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, Aug. 3, 2020


Opportunity for a climate-based recovery

The sudden but temporary fall in greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants caused by the lockdown will have a negligible effect on climate change without more structural changes in the global economy. An economic recovery plan that includes climate policy measures and a strong stimulus for green enterprises, however, could prevent more than half of the additional warming expected by 2050, researchers estimate. This could keep global temperature rise below the 1.5 C target in the 2016 Paris Agreement.

Nature Climate Change, Aug. 6, 2020

Pandemic crowds out attention for climate

A climate-based recovery may be unlikely, however, if the pandemic continues to occupy most peoples’ mental space. Humans have a finite capacity for attention to risk and are programmed to prioritize one threat at a time, focusing on the one that feels most immediate. With COVID-19 dominating news coverage, online searches around environmental issues have plummeted to new lows, according to Google analytics data. However, researchers found that briefly directing attention towards a risk can make it seem more important and worthy of action, suggesting that concern for climate change could be encouraged if the issue is nudged back into people’s minds every so often.

Journal of Experimental Psychology, Aug. 5, 2020

Viral load is the same in symptomatic and asymptomatic patients

A study in Korea has found that the viral load — the amount of the virus in a person’s system — is similar whether that person is showing symptoms or not. Many patients never develop symptoms, supporting the idea that every infected person should be isolated.

JAMA Internal Medicine, Aug. 6, 2020

Which masks work best?

A study of how effectively different types of masks prevent the spread of droplets that could contain the SARS-CoV-2 virus suggests that professional N95 masks, surgical or polypropylene masks, and handmade cotton masks may all block much of the spray produced when wearers speak. Bandanas and neck fleeces, however, provide little protection.

Science Advances, Aug. 7, 2020

Viral incubation period longer than thought

The incubation period for SARS-CoV-2, the time between when someone is infected and when symptoms appear, is longer than thought, according to new research from China. The new estimate is 7.76 days, longer than the previous estimate of 4 to 5 days. Researchers also found that about 10 per cent of people have an incubation period that lasts more than 14 days, meaning the 14-day self-isolation standard may not be enough time in all cases.

Science Advances, Aug. 7, 2020  [Tyee]

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